Phil Mullis

Retail sales beat the January blues as high street seeks a 'Boris bounce'

The key findings from the Office for National Statistics retail sales for January 2020 showed:

• January saw a 2.1% increase in the value spent compared to the same month a year earlier. • In the three months to January 2020, the quantity bought in the retail sales industry fell by 0.8% when compared with the previous three months, with declines across all sectors. • Retail volumes increased by 0.9% in January 2020, recovering from the falls in the previous two months; the increase was mainly because of moderate growth in both food stores (1.7%) and non-food stores (1.3%).

Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at one of the UK’s leading business advisory firms, Wilkins Kennedy part of CogitalGroup, said:

“It’s far too early to say that there has been a ‘Boris bounce’ amongst consumers following the general election, but to see a 2.1 per cent year-on-year increase on the amount of money being spent is a helpful start to the new retail decade.

“Clearly new year discounting can’t be a long-term strategy for retailers, and while businesses can plough a lot of time and effort into adapting to shopping habits, they need help from Downing Street in the longer term.

“I would urge the government to capitalise on this positive momentum as we approach the Budget by reducing business rates – as this will ultimately level the retail playing field and strengthen retailers’ cash flow at a time when there are signs of growth. It is rates such as this which I feel have contributed to Beales, the department stores, seeming demise and Laura Ashley, reporting it as a contributor, along with reduced consumer demand, to its recent loss.

“The need to reduce business rates becomes even more important given the context of the recent announcement of an immigration style points system. This may shrink the availability of potential employees to choose from, which could well drive up wages in the future, potentially increasing prices for the customer – so retailers really do need any help they can get when it comes to business rates.

“Finally, here’s looking to the near future with the hope that cupid can spread the love far and wide in February to attract the shoppers through the doors.”

Wilkins Kennedy is part of the CogitalGroup, an international business services group focused on entrepreneurial and private companies.

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