Covering the five weeks 25 August - 28 September 2019

  • On a Total basis, sales decreased by 1.3% in September, against an increase of 0.7% in September 2018. This is below the 3-month average decline of 0.4% and the 12-month average growth of 0.2%, a new record low. It is also the worst September since our records began in 1995.

  • In September, UK retail sales decreased by 1.7% on a Like-for-like basis from September 2018, when they had decreased 0.2% from the preceding year. This is worse than both the 3-month and 12-month averages of -0.8% and -0.4% respectively. This is the lowest 12-month average since August 2009.

  • Over the three months to September, In-store sales of Non-Food items declined 3.2% on both a Total and Like-for-like basis. This is worse than the 12-month Total average decline of 2.9%.

  • Over the three months to September, Food sales increased 0.3% on a Like-for-like basis and 1.2% on a Total basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 1.7%, which is the lowest since March 2017.

  • Over the three-months to September, Non-Food retail sales in the UK decreased by 1.7% on both a like-for-like and Total basis. This is below the 12-month Total average decrease of 1.0%, which is a new record low. For the month of September, Non-Food was in decline year-on-year.

  • Online sales of Non-Food products grew 0.7% in September, the worst ever recorded. It was against a growth of 5.4% in September 2018. The 3-month and 12-month average growths were 2.1% and 3.8% respectively.

  • Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 28.0% in September 2018 to 29.9% last month.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium

“With the spectre of a no-deal weighing increasingly on consumer purchasing decisions, it is no surprise that sales growth has once again fallen into the red. Many consumers held off from non-essential purchases, or shopped around for the bigger discounts, while the new autumn clothing ranges suffered from the warmer September weather. The longer-term prospect continues to be bleak, with the 12-month average once again plumbing new depths at a mere 0.2 per cent. Online non-food sales growth was the lowest on record, though still compared favourably to the decline in growth at physical stores.

“With four months of negative sales growth since March, the ongoing political gridlock surrounding Brexit is harming both consumers and retailers. Clarity is needed over our future trading relationship with our closest neighbours, and it is vitally important that Britain does not leave the EU without a deal.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail | KPMG

“Unsurprisingly September proved to be another difficult month for retailers, with like-for-like sales declining by 1.7 per cent compared to last year. Worryingly, even online sales moved closer to stalling, with growth of non-food online sales only 0.7 per cent.

“Ongoing Brexit uncertainty is clearly having a material impact on the consumer psyche, with all but one non-food category being in decline in September. Consumers are choosing to focus on the essentials, with food one of the few categories delivering growth.

“We will likely experience increased promotional activity to clear surplus stock, which doesn’t bear well for retailers desperately trying to make up for lost ground after several difficult months.

“Retailers’ focus needs to be on cost and efficiency with only the leanest and most efficient operations coping with this extreme test of endurance. October, and the ramping up of Brexit plans, will clearly be a real test for the industry as a whole.”

Food & Drink sector performance | Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD

“September seems to have seen something of a return to normality for the food and grocery market after the ups and downs of the summer. While taking a bit of a boost from some late seasonal weather at the beginning of the period, sales stabilised in modestly positive territory as the month progressed. 

“While the Rugby World Cup offers only limited sales impact, retailers are looking to the succession of Autumn events - starting with Halloween - to drive more positive momentum as consumers begin to turn their minds toward Christmas.”