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Covering the four weeks 30 December 2018 - 26 January 2019, UK retail sales increased by 1.8% on a like-for-like basis from January 2018, when they had increased 0.6% from the preceding year.

On a total basis, sales increased by 2.2% in January, against an increase of 1.4% in January 2018. This was the highest growth since June and above both the 3-month and 12-month averages of 0.8% and 1.2% respectively.

Over the three months to January, food sales increased 1.3% on a like-for-like basis and 2.4% on a total basis, the highest since September. This is below the 12-month total average growth of 3%, which is the lowest since September 2017.

Over the three-months to January, non-food retail sales in the UK decreased 0.8% on a like-for-like basis and 0.4% on a Total basis. This is below the 12-month total average decrease of 0.2%. Non-food sales returned to growth in January, after two months of decline.

On the Food & Drink sector performance, Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD, said, “Bolstered by the inclusion of New Year’s Eve in the latest figures and relatively mild weather before the recent snowfall, food and grocery sales held up reasonably well in January.

“Looking to shopper sentiment, we’re seeing polarisation in views on quality vs. cost. Whereas 14% say they will put a greater focus on quality in their food shopping this year, up from 12% in December, another 20% expect to focus more on price. This compares with 17% from the previous month.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail of KPMG, said, “Following the worst December trading performance in a decade, January brought a welcome improvement with total retail sales up 2.2 per cent. Having said that, this increase points more to British shoppers’ obsession of bagging a bargain and price inflation, rather than any real improvement, and these peaks and troughs continue to leave retailers feeling increasingly anxious.

“The colder weather and continual discounting drove up fashion sales, whilst the increased focus indoors also boosted furniture sales. However, not all categories or players have been so fortunate, and even online growth continued to slow.

“Eyes are naturally fixed on who the next casualty will be, but we can’t afford to overlook those excelling despite adverse conditions. Winning retailers remain attractive to investors and consumers; they are adaptive and agile, and ultimately they continue to outperform in this rapidly evolving market.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of British Retail Consortium, said, “There was a welcome return to growth this month after December’s disappointing sales figures. But while retail discounts helped tempt cautious consumers, there is no guarantee this momentum will continue after the sales have finished. And it will not just be brick-and-mortar stores looking nervously to the future, as online sales continued to grow below the long term trend.

“Furthermore, the risk of a disruptive no deal Brexit could see these fortunes reversed. Unless the Government want to see well known brands disappearing from our high streets in 2019, they should work with their colleagues in Parliament to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March and removes the risks to UK consumers.”

(source: KPMG, image: pexels)