High Street to be hit by ‘perfect storm’ this Christmas

High street sales collapsed in the last week of October amid political upheaval as retailers face a “perfect storm” in the crucial Christmas trading period, figures suggest.

Retailers failed to stem the sales plunge despite deep autumn discounting and early seasonal promotions, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.

Total like-for-like sales managed a marginal 0.7% increase and failed to offset a negative base of minus 2% last October as consumers became “increasingly sensitive to the political chaos” of Brexit delays the announcement of a general election, BDO said.

The final week saw sales plummet 6.45% from a base of minus 0.30%.

Sales of lifestyle products recorded a decrease of 1.9% to mark the 21st consecutive month of no growth for the sector, considered the most indicative of discretionary spending.

Overall footfall fell every week in October compared with the same period in 2018, starting with a decline of 1.8% and ending with its largest fall of 5.3%.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “Consumers were delivered a double blow of yet another Brexit delay combined with news of a General Election during the crucial festive trading period.

“While the first three weeks of October may have brought hope to the high street, the final week was awful and came very close to negating the positive gains in the first weeks of October.

“Consumer confidence will have been further deteriorated by news of the collapse of major high street employer and well-loved brand Mothercare – the latest victim of relentless high street transformation.”

Ms Michael added: “Retailers stockpiling for a Brexit date that was ultimately delayed has only further alienated the relationship between retailers and government.

“As retailers continue to trade on paper-thin margins, and their pleas for business rates reform remain ignored, they enter the vital Christmas trading period facing a perfect storm of unfavourable conditions.”

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