Share with your friends

Brexit uncertainty continues to slow sales

Brexit uncertainty continues to slow sales

BRC – KPMG Retail Sales Monitor March 2019 - Covering the five weeks between 24th February - 30th March 2019.


Also on

The March figures are negatively distorted by the timing of the run-up to Easter, which is in April this year compared to March in the previous year. One way of  correcting for this distortion is to look at the 2-year average, since the Easter effect was reversed last year, boosting the sales growth in March 2018.

• On a total basis, sales decreased by 0.5% in March, against an increase of 2.3% in March 2018. This was below both the 3-month and 12-month average increases of 0.6% and 0.9% respectively. The 2-year average growth was 0.9% per annum, a slowdown from February’s equivalent of 1.1%.

• In March, UK retail sales decreased by 1.1% on a Like-for-like basis from March 2018, when they had increased 1.4% from the preceding year. The 2-year average Like-for-like growth was 0.1% per annum, a slowdown from February’s 0.3%.

• Over the three months to March, In-store sales of Non-Food items declined 1.5% on a Total basis and 1.7% on a Like-for-like basis. This is above the 12-month Total average decline of 2.1%. Online, the 3-month and 12-month average growths were 4.5% and 6.4% respectively.

• Over the three months to March, Food sales increased 0.2% on a Like-for-like basis and 1.3% on a Total basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 2.0%.

• Over the three-months to March, Non-Food retail sales in the UK were flat on a like-for-like basis and increased 0.1% on a Total basis. This is broadly in-line with the 12-month Total average of 0.0%.

• Online sales of Non-Food products grew 3.0% in March, against a growth of 7.9% in March 2018. The 2-year average growth was 5.4% per annum, a slowdown from February’s 5.9%. 

• Online penetration rate increased from 28.5% in March 2018 to 29.9% last month.

Sue Richardson, Retail Director UK | KPMG:

“March marked a truly disappointing end to the first quarter of 2019 for retailers. Not only did total sales fall 0.5 per cent compared to the same month last year, but no further clarity around Brexit came to light, and shoppers continue to waver.

“Not all categories or channels suffered the same fate though, with clothing generally bagging a welcome reprieve thanks to more favourable weather – especially when compared to the Beast from the East this time last year. 

“However other categories, mainly big-ticket items including furniture, remained overlooked. Online sales may have performed better than the high street, but the high proportion of sales occurring online actually nods towards the underlying issue of profit pressure. 

“Retailers will be hoping for an end to this sustained uncertainty – it’s clearly not good for business – but times have already well and truly changed, and agility remains the best form of defence.”

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium:

“Retail sales slowed in March, even when the Easter distortions were accounted for, as greater uncertainty caused people to hold off from splashing out. While jewellery, beauty products and clothing purchases were all up to indulge on Mother’s Day, shoppers were generally cautious not to overspend, particularly on larger items. 

“Brexit continues to feed the uncertainty among consumers. For the sake of everyone, MPs must rally behind a plan of action that avoids no deal – and quickly – or it will be ordinary families who suffer as a result of higher prices and less choice on the shelves.”

Food & Drink sector performance | Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD:

“The lateness of Easter in 2019 is the main factor behind the year-on-year fall in food and grocery sales for March. The underlying trend has been generally flat, indicating there has not been a high level of stock building by households. 

“Although 62 per cent of shoppers are worried about the economy this is the same number as in summer last year. For the great majority, it has been food shopping as usual.”




For media enquiries:


Simon Wilson

PR Assistant Manager, KPMG

T: + 44 (0)2073 116651

M: + 44 (0)7785 373397



Tom Holder

Media Relations Officer, BRC

T: + 44 (0)2078 548924

M: + 44 (0)7772 382432



Alexandra Crisp

Senior Communications Officer, IGD

T: + 44 (0)1923 857141

M: + 44 (0)7590 183295



About the British Retail Consortium

The BRC’s purpose is to make a positive difference to the retail industry and the customers it serves, today and in the future.

Retail is an exciting, dynamic and diverse industry which is going through a period of profound change. The BRC is committed to ensuring the industry thrives through this period of transformation. We tell the story of retail, work with our members to drive positive change and use our expertise and influence to create an economic and policy environment that enables retail businesses to thrive and consumers to benefit. Our membership comprises over 5,000 businesses delivering £180bn of retail sales and employing over one and half million employees.

About KPMG in the UK

KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 16,300 partners and staff.  The UK firm recorded a revenue of £2.338 billion in the year ended 30 September 2018. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 154 countries and has 200,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity.  Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

© 2021 KPMG LLP a UK limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organisation of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

For more detail about the structure of the KPMG global organisation please visit

Connect with us


Want to do business with KPMG?


loading image Request for proposal