Retail figures for Christmas have showed a decline across most sectors, says the British Independent Retailers Association’s (Bira).
Only books and toys; music; computer and telecoms; and health store retailers saw sales go up in the period October to December 2019, compared to the same period last year.
Of the 12 sectors surveyed, only two reported a positive performance during the quarter, with five out of 12 showing a decline when compared to the previous year.
The worst performing sector was café and eateries, which was 14.3% down.
Other struggling sectors include clothing and footwear retailers who were down 4.8% at the end of the year.
Bira said it is clear from the analysis, supported by the member comments, that the General Election in December hampered trading at the busiest time of the year for retailers.
More than 60% of respondents are facing modest margin pressures, due to a weaker pound as a result of Brexit.
However, anxiety for the year ahead has dropped slightly, perhaps aided by a secured Brexit deal and the announcement of a majority Government.
Andrew Goodacre, Bira’s CEO, said: “The figures from the final QSM of 2019 reflect a difficult quarter for independent retail businesses at the busiest time of the year. Although 2019 started in a more positive manner, only 39.57% have reported a positive performance. Furthermore, to see an overall drop of 2.82% is worrying and reflective of the challenging times retailers are facing.
“We predicted last quarter that an election before Christmas would impact businesses and this has clearly been the case. To have more political instability just before the festive season hampered consumer confidence and subsequently hurt businesses.
“However, with a majority Government in place, I believe we can look forward to the year with some optimism.
“Following our campaigning over the last three years, we were delighted to see the Government increase the rates discount from 30% to 50% for smaller retailers. We are now calling on them to make this increase permanent as it was set to run until 2021.
“We also want more from the new Government in terms of incentives for investment into a business, easier rates appeals, better parking facilities for shoppers and much more. We want to retain a thriving high street and 2020 will be an ideal opportunity for the ‘powers that be’ to truly level the playing field.
“As always, Bira will continue to fight for a better deal for independent businesses across the UK.”