News & Insight

UK retail in slump: year-on-year growth negative for the first time in 4 years.

Oliver Jones

Expectations are low for the UK economy.

Between skyrocketing food inflation and post-referendum uncertainty, the UK’s shoppers have found themselves buying less than this time last year.

ONS statistics show that October 2017 was 0.3% behind October 2016 in sales volume – though still an increase from September.

A damp October

October sales were mainly powered through by second hand sales: sales in charity shops, auction houses and antique dealers – plus a jump in petrol sales as buyers anticipated the price rise this November.

The news follows a September’s 0.7% retail slump, and generally dampened demand throughout 2017.

It also puts high street businesses under pressure, as Christmas time is often the only period many footfall-dependent businesses make any profit.

Why the slump?

Reasons given for the slump are mixed, as pundits variously blame Brexit, wage stagnation, low productivity and consumer confidence, the financial crisis – or simply the weather, as a mild autumn has depressed sales on winter clothes.

Other organisations have come forward with worrying figures. Visa found consumer spending shrank by 2% this October compared to last year, with a 5% decline in high street spending. And a CBI survey of retailers revealed that sales were down for half of them.

The UK economy

Overall, expectations are low for the UK economy. It is expected to grow slower than most major European nations for the next several years, and soon fall behind traditionally slow-growing economies like Italy, Greece and Spain.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, recently pointed out that Britain’s growth has gone from top of the G7 leaderboard to near the bottom over the last six months.