Horrors, horrors!

UK retail sales suffered the biggest decline in 25 years last year as the closure of non-essential shops during lockdowns more than outweighed the online spending boom fuelled by Covid-19.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said total sales fell by 0.3% last year from the level in 2019 – the worst performance since records began in 1995 – reflecting the impact of government lockdowns and shifting consumer spending trends.

A vast pandemic leads to a rounding error change in retail sales. Gosh, that is terrible, isn’t it?

13 thoughts on “Horrors, horrors!”

  1. If the “biggest decline” since records began is 0.3% that suggests to me that it’s probably the only annual decline since records began. There’s no context there to see if -0.3% growth is a big deal or not.

  2. “Economic forecasters use decimal points in order to show that they have a sense of humour”… The same would appear to apply to the BRC. I would strongly doubt that their figures are closer than +/-2%.

  3. “The decline in sales volumes comes after the first annual fall since 1995 in 2019, when years of weak wage growth hurting households’ finances and Brexit fears led to a 0.1% drop in retail sales compared with 2018 levels.”

    What happened in 1995 then?

  4. That economist’s rounding error glosses over a lot of terrible for plenty of people. I think cake is still allowed at the moment.

  5. I don’t believe it. My spending on stuff is much reduced. Can’t shop with a mask on if there is any browsing. Can’t shop in a closed shop. Money is piling up. I don’t believe it.

  6. Was beginning to think that was it.

    Anyway, as far as retail sales go, there’s FMCG, and everything else. On the grounds that there’s only so many turnips you can eat, then FMCG volume growth must be heavily dependent upon population growth. So what happened there from ’95 onwards should be fairly obvious.

    It’s not clear from the report, but they must be whining about total cash values, not unit volumes, so 2020 saw a shift from upgrading the tellybox, to saving for essentials, just in case. As evidenced by the differences in sectors.

    And it’s still a sodding rounding error.

  7. I bet there is a massive mix variance going on in those figures – food will be untouched, possibly larger because restaurants shut most of the year, carpets and furniture must be massively down, tools and paint and DIY stuff increase, garden stuff and kitchen appliances (breadmakers, plus let’s try a few recipes)…. Overall possibly a small decline but a lot of noisy data

  8. Remember, it’s a disaster that retail spending has dropped but also those savings are a tempting target for the Progressive thieves, so watch them have it both ways.

  9. “Economic forecasters use decimal points in order to show that they have a sense of humour”… The same would appear to apply to the BRC. I would strongly doubt that their figures are closer than +/-2%.

    I bet Tesco, Asda etc know how their sales have performed to at least 5 sig figs. And the major supermarkets account for >95% of all UK grocery sales. I’m not sure about other sectors, but wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in a similar position.

  10. Bloke near Worcester

    @Diogenes ‘carpets and furniture must be massively down’

    Maybe not. I decided to refurb the study mid last year. The carpet fitters were quoting me 6 weeks before they could come. Rushed off their feet, working weekends etc

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