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Consumer Spending Crunch Hits as Shoppers Flock Online for Bargains

11 January 2019 - 10:29 by Graham Miller

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Retailers across the UK suffered a serious setback last month, with statistics published by the British Retail Consortium revealing a 2.8 per cent year-on-year dip in bricks-and-mortar sales.

This fall came in spite of the fact that the pre-Christmas sales period is usually a time for increased spending and growth in this sector.

Unsurprisingly, the web-based retail market managed to maintain its upwards trajectory, with sales made via safe shopping online growing by 5.8 per cent in December of 2018.

While e-commerce sites were increasing their customer numbers a lot more slowly than in the past, the shifting trends as well as muted consumer spending overall helped them to account for 31.2 per cent of the market as a whole.

Report spokesperson Helen Dickinson confirmed that analysts’ fears surrounding consumer caution were realised in the final weeks of the year, with UK retail suffering its most problematic period in a decade. Not since the financial crash of 2008 have in-store sales been so low.

She also pointed out that the main culprit in this is not online shopping itself but rather the massive amount of uncertainty that looms large in the form of Brexit. If the end of March arrives and the deadline for the UK to leave the EU falls without a trade deal being struck, it seems certain that economic turmoil and disruption will be the result.

The outlook for retailers at the moment is described as challenging, although the fact that even in the face of a crisis there is still increasing demand for online shopping services should be seen as a positive point.

Shoppers and analysts alike will no doubt be keeping an eye on future sales figures to see the breadth and scope of Brexit’s impact in 2019.