UK high street sees ‘glacial growth’ in January

In the month of January, total like-for-like sales were up by 0.6% compared to 0.1% for the same month last year, according to business advisory firm BDO’s High Street Tracker report.

Excluding the drop in January 2017, the growth this month for the traditional sales season was still the lowest seen in January since 2013.

Total in-store sales began well in January, up by 1.47% in week one. In week two sales rose by 4.77%. However, that good result was coming off of a negative equivalent week in 2017, which had a decrease of 4.46%. Sales fell by 2.7% in week three. In the last week of the month sales were down by 1.33%.

Lifestyle and homeware performed well in January, with fashion also in positive territory. However, like-for-like (LFL) growth for all three sector indexes was below 1%.

Overall footfall was down in every week of January, being down furthest in week one with a drop of 6.0%. The high street was most heavily impacted as footfall fell by 5.2% in week three. Footfall at shopping centres was also down in each week, starting January with a month-low drop of 9.2%. Footfall at retail parks fared better, up in weeks two and four with increases of 0.7% and 0.2% respectively.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “The glacial pace of growth on the high street reflected the extent to which consumers are shifting their spending from material goods to experiences while simultaneously seeing their disposable income shrink.

“High street retailers face intense competition for consumers’ attention at the moment. In the battle for the consumer purse and with so much choice across all retail channels, it is vital that retailers maintain their investment in the customer experience and a differentiated product while protecting their margins against the backdrop of rising retailer costs.”

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