The latest research and analysis from the BRC

The British Retail Consortium produces unbiased research and analysis on retail performance and the economic drivers influencing the British retail industry. The MIA’s Membership with the BRC gives us access to an expanded portfolio of content to share with our members. We’re pleased to share the headline statistics from these reports on inflation and footfall with you.

Inflation: Shoppers hit with sharpest price rises in a decade

January saw shop price inflation nearly double, driven by a rise in non-food inflation. The BRC’s report got coverage in national and trade publications, highlights include BBC News, The Guardian and The Times.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium:

January saw shop price inflation nearly double, driven by a sharp rise in non-food inflation. In particular, furniture and flooring saw exceptionally high demand leading to increased prices as rising oil costs made shipping more expensive. Food prices continue to rise, especially domestic produce which have been impacted by poor harvests, labour shortages, and rising global food prices.
The rise in shop prices is playing into wider UK inflation, which is pushing cost of living to the forefront of the political agenda. Many households will find it difficult to absorb the additional costs, as well as others on the horizon. Retailers are working hard to cut costs, but it would be impossible to protect consumers from any future rises. As commodity prices, energy prices and transportation costs continue to rise, it is inevitable that retail prices will continue to follow in the future.

Mike Watkins, Head of Retailer and Business Insight, NielsenIQ:

The surge in energy and travel costs is now impacting disposable incomes and is likely to dent consumer’s willingness to spend. NielsenIQ research this month shows nearly a half of all households are saying that their most important concern at the moment is the rising cost of living. This will mean stores will need to encourage cash-strapped customers to keep shopping and despite the increase in shop prices, retailers are responding by keeping price increases as low possible for as long as possible

Footfall: A slow start to 2022

When it comes to UK footfall, it was a slow start to 2022, with only minor improvements despite a significant decline in Covid cases. Indeed, it was quality over quantity in January; less people visited retail parks and shopping centres, but those who did went to more stores at each location. It is likely the January sales influenced in this behaviour, encouraging consumers to shop around in their quest to find the best deals.

Helen Dickinson OBE | Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium

“As we emerge out of the Omicron wave and the return to the office gains momentum, we are hopeful footfall will continue to improve. Yet, even as restrictions are eased, retail footfall will not return to pre-pandemic levels any time soon. This poses a challenge to many town and city centre retailers who continue be impacted to from lower commuter numbers. However, opportunities remain; innovative retailers are reacting to new consumer behaviours by investing in physical and digital offerings in order to draw in new customers. The return of other sectors, from hospitality to tourism, may create additional competition for customer spending, but it also brings new life and custom to many vital shopping destinations.”

Andy Sumpter | Retail Consultant – EMEA | Sensormatic Solutions

While total retail shopper traffic improved marginally on December’s figures, footfall’s recovery remains plateaued.  January became the fourth successive month in which shopper counts struggled to reach the highest recovery levels seen back in October.  With the Government dropping Covid Plan B curbs and work from home guidance, retailers will be hoping consumer confidence will also return along with the commuter trade to boost footfall and put a spring back in to step of the High Street’s recovery.

Retail Sales Monitor: New Year joy for UK Retail

It is encouraging to see such strong sales in January, even once inflation has been accounted for. Food sales were more muted than in previous months, as people went back to eating out more often. Consumers prioritised home purchases, boosting the sale of household appliances, electronics and homeware. In what may be signs of a return to pre-pandemic trends, furniture was the stand-out performer in January, after transport delays in the Christmas period began to ease.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, BRC:

Retailers and consumers face challenges in the coming months. Retailers face competition from other spending opportunities as the public flood back to restaurants, cafes and live events. Furthermore, rising inflation, driven by higher costs of production, higher energy and transport prices, as well as other looming price hikes this Spring will mean consumers will have to tighten their purse strings.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail, KPMG:

Retailers will be relieved that we started the year without further lockdowns as consumer demand continued strongly on the high street with sales up 11.9% on last year. However, this unusually strong performance for January which is traditionally a slower month, should be put in the context of last year’s lockdown restrictions.

Footwear, furniture and jewellery saw strong sales growth in stores whilst spending on food and drink, toys and computing all fell during January. “

“Unsurprisingly, online sales were down across all categories compared to January 2021, with items for the home seeing the biggest fall in sales volumes.

“With Covid restrictions now eased, and people heading back to workplaces, retailers will be hoping consumer confidence remains robust to help offset the rising cost challenges that they are likely to experience for a while. We could see a challenging few months ahead if wider macroeconomic conditions start to squeeze household incomes to the point that they start cutting back on retail spending. Retailers are facing their own inflationary pressures and will need to take tough decisions on whether and how to pass on the increase costs they have been sitting on for some time to consumers facing their own financial challenges. We could easily see the health of the sector start to deteriorate if consumers choose to sit on savings to weather the storm.”

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