Retailers suffered their worst annual sales performance on record in 2020 according to new British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures.

The figures for 2020 overall indicated that total sales declined 0.3% compared with 2019. Food growth was 5.4% and the Non-Food decline was 5.0% for the year. In-Store sales of Non-Food items declined by 24%, compared with 2019.

On a Total basis, sales increased by 1.8% in December, against a growth of 0.2% in December 2019*. It is below the 3-month average growth of 2.5% and above the 12m average decline of 0.3%.

Commenting on the figures Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium said “Covid has led to 2020 being the worst year on record for retail sales growth. Physical non-food stores – including all of ‘non-essential’ retail – saw sales drop by a quarter compared with 2019. Christmas offered little respite for these retailers, as many shops were forced to shut during the peak trading period. Though this led to a rise in food-based gifts as many shoppers bought what they could from the shops that were still open.”

“With shops still closed for the foreseeable future, costing stores billions in lost sales, many retailers are struggling to survive. To avoid the unnecessary loss of shops and jobs the Government should announce an extension to business rates relief for the worst-affected businesses as soon as possible. With many retailers making decisions over their future, the Government must act decisively.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG said “In the most important month for the retail industry, there was some positive growth due to the on-going shift of expenditure from other categories such as travel and leisure.  Once again we saw big swings in the types of products being purchased and the channels used for shopping, with much of the growth taking place online where nearly half of all non-food purchases were made. Household related and food item purchases were top of Christmas shopping lists with historic growth rates in contrast to fashion, accessories and beauty products which experienced double-digit declines. “

“Further restrictions and the closure of many non-essential shops resulted in a dismal December performance for those retailers on the high street and conditions will continue to be challenging as we enter another national lockdown. Consumer behaviour will also continue to evolve and retailers must embrace the changes if they are to hold on to hard-won customers and generate profitable sales.

”Looking ahead, fortunes will be mixed but pent up savings and a successful vaccine rollout will help support recovery in the retail sector later in the year. Retailers will also be hoping that the reopening of high streets and shopping centres will see a return to more normal levels of footfall.”