UK retail sales displayed a decent growth in the last month of 2012, fuelled by last-minute shopping during the weekend before Christmas and buoyant online sales. Despite this, the total growth failed to beat inflation and was only equal to December 2010, when severe weather affected sales.
This is what I read in the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for December 2012, which showed that retail sales edged up 0.3% on a like-for-like basis compared with December 2011, when they saw a 2.2% annual increase. Total sales climbed by 1.5% in what is considered to be the most crucial trading month for retailers, against a stronger 4.1% rise the previous year. E-commerce made the headlines with a 17.8% uptick in December, recording its highest growth rate since December 2011, when online sales surged by 18.5%.
The spike in online retail sales could be explained by the comfort the segment provides to customers in all aspects of the shopping experience, Helen Dickinson, director general at BRC, commented.
Industry players had prepared for a tough Christmas season as they were aware of consumers’ reluctance to overspend due to their squeezed incomes. Britons who had left it to the last minute to buy Christmas gifts managed to somewhat cheer retailers up in the final days of the year, however footfall remained discouragingly low, as shoppers purchased lots of items in one go during their shopping journeys.
January will be most likely a challenging month for retailers as well, David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, projected. As a whole, 2013 will be marked by the challenges retailers encountered last year, as consumer sentiment remains weak and shoppers continue to reduce spending, he added.