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UK retail sales take a hit in December

By Rachel Douglass


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Credits: Unsplash

New figures by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that retail sales for the month of December 2023 took a 3.2 percent hit, declining from a rise of 1.4 percent in the month prior.

The statistics platform noted that the decrease was the “largest monthly fall since January 2021”, at which time pandemic restrictions had impacted sales.

For the quarter ending December, meanwhile, sales volumes also dropped 0.9 percent, with non-store sales falling 3.9 percent following a 2.7 percent increase in November.

There was also a negative outlook for online retailers, for which sales declined 2.1 percent following a 1.1 percent drop in the previous month.

On an annual basis, sales volumes fell 2.8 percent throughout 2023, their lowest level since 2023.

Speaking on the latest figures, Jacqui Baker, head of retail at RSM UK, dubbed the period as a “shocking end to the Golden Quarter”, with the cost-of-living crisis being the primary cause of consumers’ cut back budgets.

Baker continued: “Last year was a challenge for retailers and sadly this looks set to continue into 2024. Despite consumer confidence increasing and real wages rising, inflation had a slight setback in December showing just how fragile the economy is.

“As a whole, things are slowly improving but consumers probably won’t start to feel like they have more money in their pocket until the summer. After a challenging year, another six months of tough trading could be too long for some retailers.”