Considering the outlook: A shopper in a supermarket in London. Business confidence among British retailers is declining at the fastest rate since 2012. Picture: REUTERS
Considering the outlook: A shopper in a supermarket in London. Business confidence among British retailers is declining at the fastest rate since 2012. Picture: REUTERS

The woes for UK retailers are mounting as a new report suggests that 2018 was their worst Christmas since the financial crisis.

Shops saw no growth in sales in December compared with a year earlier, the worst performance in a decade, and fell 0.7% on a like-for-like basis, according to industry figures. They came as investors awaited holiday updates on Thursday from supermarket chain Tesco, along with retailers Debenhams and Marks & Spencer.

A separate report from Barclaycard showed consumer spending grew just 1.8% last month from a year earlier as Britons cut back on essentials and supermarket food. That’s the smallest increase since 2016 and a decline in real terms after adjusting for inflation.

The data is the latest to show the perilous state of UK retailers, who suffered a tough 2018 amid increasing concerns over Brexit and the rise of online shopping. The political uncertainty is denting consumer confidence, and the Bank of England sees no improvement in spending growth this year.

On Tuesday, David Potts, CEO of Wm Morrison Supermarkets, said that consumers have become “increasingly savvy and cautious of the political situation in the country, how that may unfold in 2019, and how it may affect them personally”.

The situation is also hurting retailers’ shares. The FTSE 350 general retailers index has fallen 19% since the end of 2017, almost double the loss of the FTSE 350 itself.

Bloomberg