“Brexit continues to feed uncertainty” as March sales were down

In March, UK retail sales decreased by 1.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis from March 2018, and on a total basis, sales decreased by 0.5 per cent last month, against an increase of 2.3 per cent in March last year.

These are the latest figures from the BRC, covering the four weeks 24 February to 30 March 2019. The organisation added that last month’s figures are negatively distorted by the timing of the run-up to Easter, which is in April this year compared to March in the previous year. One way of correcting for this distortion is to look at the two-year average, since the Easter effect was reversed last year, boosting the sales growth in March 2018.

Over the three months to March this year, in-store sales of Non-Food items declined 1.5 per cent on a total basis and 1.7 per cent on a Like-for-like basis. This is above the 12-month total average decline.

Online, the three-month and 12-month average growths were 4.5 and 6.4 per cent respectively.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “Retail sales slowed in March, even when the Easter distortions were accounted for, as greater uncertainty caused people to hold off from splashing out. Shoppers were generally cautious not to overspend, particularly on larger items.

“Brexit continues to feed the uncertainty among consumers. For the sake of everyone, MPs must rally behind a plan of action that avoids no deal – and quickly – or it will be ordinary families who suffer as a result of higher prices and less choice on the shelves.”

Sue Richardson, Retail Director UK at KPMG, added: “March marked a truly disappointing end to the first quarter of 2019 for retailers. Not only did total sales fall 0.5 per cent compared to the same month last year, but no further clarity around Brexit came to light, and shoppers continue to waiver.

“Retailers will be hoping for an end to this sustained uncertainty – it’s clearly not good for business – but times have already well and truly changed, and agility remains the best form of defence.”