Share with your friends

Retail sales show ‘Biggest Decline On Record’

Retail sales show ‘Biggest Decline On Record’

British Retail Consortium (BRC) – KPMG retail sales monitor, May 2019


Also on

Covering the four weeks 28 April – 25 May 2019

  • On a total basis, sales decreased by 2.7% in May. Excluding Easter distortions, this is the worst decline since this record began in January 1995. However, this was against an increase of 4.1% in May 2018, itself a four year record. This decline drags the 3-month and 12-month average increases down to 0.2% and 0.9% respectively. 
  • UK retail sales decreased by 3.0% on a Like-for-like basis from May 2018, when they had increased 2.8% from the preceding year. This was the steepest Like-for-like decline since December 2008, excluding Easter distortions.
  • Over the three months to May, In-store sales of Non-Food items declined 2.7% on both a Total and Like-for-like basis. This is worse than the 12-month Total average decline of 2.4%.
  • Over the three months to May, Food sales increased 0.8% on a Like-for-like basis and 1.9% on a Total basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 2.5%.
  • Over the three-months to May, Non-Food retail sales in the UK decreased by 1.1% both on a like-for-like and on a Total basis. This is below the 12-month Total average decrease of 0.4%. 
  • Online sales of Non-Food products grew 1.5% in May, an all-time low, against a growth of 11.5% in May 2018. The 3-month and 12-month average growths were 2.9% and 5.4% respectively. 
  • Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 28.2% in May 2018 to 30.3% last month.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium

“With the biggest decline in retail sales on record, the risk of further job losses and store closures will only increase. While May 2018 offered almost unbroken sunshine, topped off by the run up to the World Cup and the marriage of Meghan and Harry, May 2019 delivered political and economic uncertainty. Food sales dropped for the first time since June 2016, with further declines in clothing, footwear and outdoor goods.

“With retail conditions the toughest they have been for a decade, politicians must act to support the successful reinvention of our high streets and local communities. Business rates remain a barrier, preventing many retailers from investing in their physical space. We have a broken tax system, which sees retailers paying vast sums of money regardless of whether they make a penny at the till, and yet the Government is failing to act. The legislation is falling behind the technological revolution.”

NB - Records exclude Easter distortions - caused by Easter falling in different months in subsequent years.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail | KPMG

“April may have provided retailers with some light reprieve thanks to Easter, but May’s staggering fall of 3% like-for-like is a stark reminder of the industry’s ongoing issues, which for many require urgent attention.

“We are of course comparing this month’s growth against a stellar May in 2018, but even the 3-month average - which softens the monthly volatility - demonstrates that achieving growth in retail remains a real struggle.

“The bank holiday weekends have given rise to the added interest in furniture and homewares, as shoppers set about making home improvements. However, the weather did little to convince fashion-minded shoppers to refresh their seasonal wardrobes.

“The extremely low growth online is real cause for concern, especially with almost a third of all non-food sales today being made online. This trend has continued to manifest itself over the last year and requires real focus from the retail community.”

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

“The food and grocery sector will be disappointed by figures for May that ended a good run of underlying growth. We’ve now entered a tough period for year-on-year sales comparisons with the Royal Wedding last May, the men’s football World Cup from June and exceptionally warm weather throughout last summer.

“Food and drink spending is being spread around with shoppers using on average 12 different stores per month, including for top ups and food on the go.”

For Media Enquiries:

Simon Wilson
PR Assistant Manager, KPMG

T 0207 311 6651
M 07785 373397

Tom Holder
Media Relations Officer, BRC

T 0207 854 8924
M 07772 382432

Alexandra Crisp
Senior Communications Officer, IGD

T 01923 857141
M 07590 183295

- ENDS –

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