Like-for-like sales of fashion, lifestyle and homeware in shops across the UK fell 1.9% year on year in December, capping off what BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker described as the “worst year on record” for in-store sales.
In-store sales were in decline for 11 months of the year.
However, non-store sales were up 11.9% in the five weeks ending 30 December, leading to an overall rise of 1% on the same period in 2017.
Fashion followed the wider trend. In-store like-for-likes were down 2% in December, but overall like-for-likes were up 2% – suggesting fashion enjoyed similarly strong non-store sales, although BDO did not give the percentage increase.
This was the sixth consecutive December in which in-store like-for-like sales of fashion were down on the year before.
Fashion outperformed lifestyle categories such as general household goods, gifts, health and beauty, which declined by 2.5% in December. Homeware performed well, up 6.9% for the month.
There was positive growth in fashion sales during four out of the five weeks of December. The highest rise of 3.2% was recorded in the first week of the month.
Footfall across high streets, shopping centres and retail parks was down in all weeks except the last in December, according to research firm Springboard. High street footfall mirrored the overall trend, however it rose 2.8% in the final week of December, which included Boxing Day.
BDO said: “Though wages showed strong growth over the course of 2018 and inflation slowed into December, consumers continued to be cautious in the lead-up to Christmas.
“Consumer spending habits, shifting more notably into the week after Christmas, may suggest a rigid determination to wait for the most substantial discounts, thus threatening retailers’ bottom line.
“However, with reports suggesting widespread concern over personal finances and the general economic outlook retailers will likely be hoping for meaningful intervention to avoid a similarly grim outcome in 2019.”
The High Street Sales Tracker looks at 85 mid-tier retailers with stores on high streets throughout the UK.