Retail sales slumped to a 25-year low in 2020

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Retailers experienced their worst annual sales performance since records began, figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show.

While food sales grew by 5.4%, non-food sales declined by 5% over the same period resulting in an overall fall of 0.3% in 2020.

In a year dominated by the effects of COVID-19, the figures marked the worst annual decline since records began in 1995.

No Christmas miracle arrived either, with many high street retailers remaining temporarily closed due to local restrictions.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the BRC, said:

“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.”

The rise in food sales was prompted by consumers using supermarkets and online grocers to stock up ahead of a third national lockdown in England.

Total retail sales rose by 1.8% in December as shoppers spent more in the run-up to Christmas.

Year-on-year sales for the month were up 4.8%, despite in-store shop takings being affected by restrictions and temporary closures around the country.

Online non-food sales shot up by 44.8% in December as most people did their Christmas shopping online.

But with the current restrictions ensuring non-essential shops remain closed for the foreseeable future, many retailers face an uncertain future.

Retailers can currently benefit from a 100% business rates discount on top of any existing business rates relief they might receive from their local authority.

However, this relief is due to expire on 31 March 2021 and the BRC is urging the Government to act swiftly.

“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,” added Dickinson.

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