Retail figures “worst year on record”


he BRC has released its annual results for 2019, and they make for grim

reading, revealing that total sales have fallen for the first time since 1995. According to Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief

Executive at the BRC, “2019 was the worst year on record and the first year to show an overall decline in retail sales. This was also reflected in the CVAs, shop closures and job losses that the industry suffered in 2019. Twice the UK faced the prospect of a no deal Brexit, as well as political instability that concluded in a December General Election - further weakening demand for the festive period. The industry continues to transform in response to the changing technologies and shopping habits. Black Friday overtook Christmas as the biggest shopping week of the year for non-food items. Retailers also faced challenges as consumers became both more cautious and more conscientious as they went about their Christmas shopping. “Looking forward, the public’s confidence

in Britain’s trade negotiations will have a big impact on spending over the coming year. There are many ongoing challenges for retailers: to drive up productivity, continue to raise wages, improve recyclability of products and cut waste. However, this takes resources, so it is essential the new Government makes good on its promise to review, and then reform the broken business rates system which sees retail pay 25% of all business rates, while accounting for 5% of the economy.” Commenting on the figures Jon Buss, MD of UK and Northern Europe at Yext, said: “The sales results we’re seeing following Christmas make

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it clear just how competitive and driven the seasonal market is, and how important it now is that retailers ensure they attract consumers in a useful and timely manner. With footfall and sales down, it’s no longer enough to assume that the store or brand experience alone can drive customers in-store. Modern consumers often begin their journey online, and having the correct information, whether that’s stock availability, answers to FAQ, hours of operation or even an address or phone number, is crucial to ensuring that a simple online search translates into an in-store experience.

apps, social sites and voice search. Failure to adapt to this fast changing consumer search behaviour may well lead to more seasonal sales disappointments." According to Paul Kirkland, Director of

“What’s more, our recent data shows that consumers are becoming more open to trying new experiences outside of the traditional high street. Increasingly, consumers are asking questions online about the best places to shop in and visit, which is having a direct impact on footfall on the UK high street, with niche locations proving more popular than town centre shopping. Not only do consumers want this information in real-time, but they want the right answers too – and for high-street retailers to improve their peak results in 2020, this may indeed start with making sure they are ready to deliver these answers on their websites and on the major platforms like Google, mapping

Retail & Hospitality at Fujitsu UK: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to retailers that total sales fell in 2019; from declining footfall as online competitors grow their market share, to the continued impact of the UK’s political and economic uncertainty, it was a particularly difficult consumer environment to navigate. But in the face of changing consumer habits and expectations, retailers have struggled to innovate and keep pace with the rapid transformation we’re seeing across the sector. We’ve seen this lead to the closure and administration of many high-street brands as a result. It’s time for the entire industry to dramatically rethink how we can revive the high- street and drive future revenue and growth. “In fact, our recent research found that 40 per cent of UK customers feel that the high-street has been too slow in adopting technologies, showing just how much room for growth there is for retailers to take advantage of new digital solutions. For example, by leveraging predictive analytics to build a responsive and speedy delivery network to using augmented and virtual reality to immerse people in an engaging experience. “Thanks to the increasing levels of competition, and the ever-growing ways consumers can shop across devices, channels and touch points, it’s now much harder to drive awareness and attract people to shop in-store. While 2020 looks set to present continued challenges for retailers in the UK, they have the opportunity to focus on using technology to match the immediacy, personalisation and ease of online shopping to reinvigorate the in-store experience and inspire people to return to the high street.”

December 2019/January 2020

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