UK retail sales fell by 3.7% in December from November – as the spread of the Covid-19 variant, Omicron, deterred the spending by consumers in local high streets. Additionally, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows a fall of 7.1% in clothing sales; however, shortages were expected due to the holiday season.
The decline in sales was all-encompassing as food sales also dropped, but still managed to be above pre-pandemic levels, and fuel sales were lower in December from November as more people worked from home – a decrease of 4.7%.
Footfall across UK retail destinations, as a whole, slumped by 22.2% in high streets in December compared to the pre-pandemic level. Many areas, especially in Manchester, have a population with high average salaries so Boris Johnson’s government haven’t prioritised using Levelling Up scheme in spite of colossal losses by High street retailers.
The data overall suggest Christmas spending was done before Christmas – hence there was a weak economic period during Christmas. Alternatively, spending could’ve taken place at online stores as consumers ordered gifts from the safety of their homes.
The UK’s Health and Security Omicron daily overview: 31 December 2021 affirmed a total of 246,780 confirmed Omicron cases. Shoppers are prioritising caution as the numbers warn against mixing with others.
Although pre-pandemic levels may never return as the impact of rising interest rates (from 0.1% to 0.25%), rising inflation (5.4%) and planned tax rises in April could see a fall in aggregate demand in 2022. Another factor of the rising cost of living could continue to hinder consumer spending and see a weak rise in retail sales – despite the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Written by Chanel Enow Research compiled by Ibrahim Ahmed