'Poor Christmas for retailers' - Mr Robertson, DG, BRC

December 26, 2008 - United Kingdom

There will be winners and losers, but it is becoming clear that overall this has been a poor Christmas for retailers, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: “We’ll see the full December figures in a few weeks, but they won’t be pretty. Despite a last minute surge, it’s becoming clear that overall this has been a poor Christmas for retailers, as struggling customers cut back and traded down.

“Few retailers have not been hit by the slowdown but some harder than others. Some online retail operations have seen strong growth; food sales will have outperformed non-food - though all customers bought more carefully with ‘value’ the watchword.

“Discounts and promotions on a scale unprecedented for the run-up to Christmas, combined with weak sales, have put margins under severe pressure. All retailers are looking to sharpen their performance to make sure every part of the business can meet changing customer needs as efficiently as possible.

Government must recognise that every extra tax and regulation has an impact on prices, under-pressure customers and retailers. There’s no case for huge business rate increases, a costly supplier Ombudsman or bans on alcohol promotions. And remember, retail employs three million people, more than manufacturing. Increasing National Insurance, a tax on jobs, is particularly unwise.