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QSM Q4 2018: Christmas period boosts trading – for some

Sales were up for Gifts, Glass, China, Jewellery, Accessories and Luggage, Cookshop & Housewares and Health Store retailers during October – December, whilst Cards, Stationery, Cards and Hobbies struggle.

The overall picture from Bira’s exclusive Quarterly Sales Monitor (QSM) for the fourth quarter of 2018 is one of disappointment, with many of the figures showing a decline when compared to the previous quarter and Q4 2017.  Only four of the twelve sectors surveyed reported a positive average performance during the fourth quarter. Overall, 53.66% of respondents reported a lower performance for Q4 which is up on Q3 (51.47%), though is an improvement when compared to Q4 2017 (54.3%).

Gifts, glass, china, jewellery, accessories and luggage sales may have been higher during the Christmas period, where gifts are typically in demand, with the sector seeing a (+3.42%) higher performance against Q4 last year. The same can be said about the Cookshop & Houseware and Health Store sectors as respondents showed clear improvements of (+1.92%) and (+0.18%) when compared to Q4 last year (-2.22%) and (-1.23%).

The worst performing sector in the QSM was Cards, Stationery, Crafts and Hobbies which was down (-14.34%). This is perhaps the most surprising result from the survey given the season. Other struggling sectors include Clothing and Footwear retailers as well as Books and Toys, Music and Computers/Telecoms retailers, which were both down by (-4.55%) and (-3.13%) respectively. Again, popular seasonal items that did not resonate with consumers.

The North West was the best performing region with respondents recovering from a poor Q3 (-3.56%) to show a (+0.5%) rise when compared to Q4 last year. Retailers from Wales showed a drop when compared to Q3, but still performed strongly this quarter (+1.16%). Retailers in East Anglia and the Midlands had a more difficult time, showing declines of (-7.43%) and (-2.46%) respectively.

Despite the varying signs of improvement across some sectors and regions, prolonged discussions on Brexit are undoubtedly a cause for concern. Furthermore 40.42% of retailers are facing significant margin pressures, due to a weaker Pound again as a result of Brexit. Some 57.84% of respondents to the QSM are feeling anxious about the year ahead, a worrying sign amongst retail as this is the highest figure for 2018 and is almost 10% up on the same quarter from last year (48.98%).

Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO said: “The latest figures from the final QSM of 2018 reflect a disappointing year for independent businesses. Despite it being one of the busiest trading periods of the year, the majority have struggled to claw back precious revenue. It is clear that 2019 will be a big year for the high street with the outcome of Brexit and an increase to wages as huge challenges, to name a few. While many businesses can look forward to rate reductions from April, we urgently need the Government to start spending the £675million high street fund as anxiousness is at an all-time high – these businesses clearly need support now. Let’s hope that in 2019 the Government addresses these issues, which would hopefully lead to increased footfall to lift sales across all sectors and regions. As always, Bira will continue to fight the corner for independent businesses across the UK and I encourage all members to complete our surveys, to help us do this.”

About the QSM
We run the Quarterly Sales Monitor four times a year and along with the report, it is the only survey of its kind that reflects the independent retail industry in the UK. The report features full analysis from the survey as well as all member comments. All reports are then used to influence the media and Government through our Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee (LPAC), with all participants receiving a copy of the results.

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