According to the leading UK retail industry body, British Retail Consortium (BRC), retail sales fell for the first time in 25 years last year.
Total sales dropped by 0.1 per cent, making 2019 the first annual decline since 1995. In 2018, annual sales managed to grow by 1.2 per cent, even amid a tough climate.
Last year´s downturn was affected by a 0.9 per cent decrease in high street sales throughout November and December, the period when most retailers gain a majority of their annual profits.
UK retail sales during the Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas periods were highly affected by the increase of online sales that rose by 2.6 per cent during the months that the high street suffered.
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC, said: “2019 was the worst year on record and the first year to show an overall decline in retail sales.” She commented on the decline, explaining that job losses, shop closures and company restructurings and weak consumer demand hit the industry hard.
A separate report from Barclaycard found that a rise in consumer confidence had failed to boost festive spending.
According to analysts at Local Data Company, more than 12 per cent of high street shops are now empty, whereas a year ago the figure only stood at 11.5 per cent. Fashion chains such as Karen Millen, Coast and Forever 21 all fell victim to the high street crisis and disappeared last year.
In addition, retailers including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge owner Arcadia, HMW, Laura Ashley and Bathstore have closed a large number of outlets as part of restructuring processes.