The monthly BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor reported poor trading conditions in the UK shopping scene as the allimportant peak Christmas trading period approaches. The weak conditions follow a strong summer, led by the grocery sector as shoppers basked in England’s World Cup success and the prolonged heatwave.
However, even the food sector is now caught up in an apparent shopping strike by the British consumer.
Analysts such as Clive Black at Shore Capital say that the consumer mood seemed to change towards the end of September, corresponding with the build-up of tension surrounding Brexit.
For the first time since the EU referendum, analysts say that stoicism has been replaced by concern as shoppers finally realise that Brexit might actually affect them.
It has come to light that some voters thought that ‘no deal’ meant we would just stick with our current EU deal, which highlights the absolute confusion surrounding this awful mess.
As Mr Black points out, that concern is set against the backdrop of near full employment, an easing of austerity measures for elements of the public sector and rising real living standards.
He added: “The economics are not outing at the moment as the frankly chaotic politics of a somewhat disgracefully fragmented and self-interested political class takes its toll.”
The latest GfK NOP consumer confidence data, which came in at minus 13, is a level not seen since the immediate referendum result and Theresa May’s foolhardy snap General Election.
Anyone who says they can predict what will happen next is lying. Britain is now the laughing stock of the world and that takes some doing bearing in mind what is going on in the US, France, Italy and China.
Mr Black believes the chaos may persist and whilst we are unable to second-guess the outcomes, we can be more assured that the shopper will remain cautious, making for what could be a very challenging December trade, with a correspondingly poor New Year trading update season.
He said that for the more financially vulnerable retailers, the New Year could be very telling.
The BRC-KPMG data revealed that total retail sales in November increased by just 0.5 per cent versus a 1.5 per cent comparative, which is below the 12 month moving average of 1.3 per cent.
Like-for-like sales fell by 0.5 per cent against a modest comparative of 0.6 per cent and in-store, nonfood like-for-like sales growth fell by 3.3 per cent.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that weak consumer demand and falling confidence mean that retailers are in for a “nerve-wracking run up to Christmas”.
She added that conditions in the industry have been particularly
Even the food sector is now caught up in an apparent shopping strike.
tough since the vote to leave the EU in 2016 and the current uncertainty has only compounded the challenges. She said that only when the UK secures a transition period with the EU that ensures tariff-free, frictionless trade will retailers be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Mr Black concluded that storebased retailers are going to have to use all of their skills to gain custom from a distinctly worried and agitated nation.
If could wave a magic wand, the one thing I’d do right now is expel nearly every MP and replace them with the top brass at Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Waitrose, the Co-Op, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl.
They have the intelligence, nous, experience and wit to sort out this unholy mess – qualities that are sadly lacking in Westminster at the moment.