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UK high streets suffer worst May on record, as sales plunge 3.3%

Experts call for 'much-needed action' to support Britain;s struggling retailers

Josie Clarke
Friday 07 June 2019 09:02 BST
Death of the UK high street: Retailers gone since 2008

Britain's high streets suffered their worst May on record as sales plunged by 3.3 per cent on last year, figures show.

The significant drop, off the back of negative 2.2 per cent base for May last year, follows four months of poor results, according to BDO's High Street Sales Tracker (HSST).

The lifestyle sector continued its collapse as in-store sales fell 2.4 per cent from an already negative base of minus 3.8 per cent in May last year. The sector has now failed to record growth for 16 months.

Fashion in-store sales also declined by 4.2 per cent from a marginal base of positive 0.4 per cent for the same month last year.

BDO said the figures reflected how difficult the trading environment had become for retailers.

They follow the British Retail Consortium warning that the high street saw its biggest decline since the mid 1990s last month after overall retail sales fell by 2.7 per cent.

Sophie Michael, head of retail at BDO, said: "Our high streets are creaking at the seams. It's time the government took action and showed some much-needed support for retailers and to the millions of people the sector employs.

"Both retailers and shoppers alike need a clear roadmap that can deliver much needed confidence for the future.

"Retailers know they need to adapt their physical portfolios and respond quickly to changing consumer behaviours, but they are in investment paralysis as Brexit uncertainty drags on and consumer confidence remains low.

"It is vital that the ambivalence with which the high street is currently being treated is replaced with concerted action, or the results could be catastrophic."

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