(BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE

Despite the recent Omicron outbreak, retail sales held up through December, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE

Commenting on the results of the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for December, which covers the five weeks from November 28 to January 1, she said: “In the face of rising case numbers and supply chain issues, people in retail pulled out all the stops to ensure everyone got what they wanted this Christmas. Retailers did well to weather the challenging trade conditions, with retail sales for 2021 up on both the previous year and compared to pre-pandemic levels. Continuing a trend throughout the pandemic towards online shopping, 2021 saw a double-digit rise in non-food online sales: a testament to retailers’ huge investments in their online platforms.”

However, she noted: “Retail faces significant head winds in 2022, as consumer spending is held back by rising inflation, increasing energy bills, and April’s National Insurance hike. It will take continued agility and resilience if they are to battle the storm ahead, while also tackling issues from labour shortages to rising transport and logistics costs.”

“In the face of rising case numbers and supply chain issues, people in retail pulled out all the stops to ensure everyone got what they wanted this Christmas. Retailers did well to weather the challenging trade conditions, with retail sales for 2021 up on both the previous year and compared to pre-pandemic levels”

KPMG UK Head of Retail Paul Martin added: “Following a strong November, retail sales continued to grow in December, increasing by just over 2% compared with 2020, although the spread of the Omicron variant and updated Government guidelines slowed spending during the final weeks of the year. Consumers continued to head to the high street for their festive gifts, determined to secure the presents they wanted and not leave online deliveries arriving on time to chance.

Festive success but head winds for 2022, says BRC

He predicted: “As we head into 2022, retailers will be keeping close to Government Covid updates and hoping consumer confidence holds up in order to offset the rising cost challenges they are likely to experience for the foreseeable future.  “Retailers have worked hard to manage factors in their control throughout the pandemic to adapt to the changing environment, but there are many macro factors outside of their control that could impact them this year. With many retailers cautiously optimistic for 2022, focusing on continuously re-engineering their business models, and ensuring they operate resilient supply chains, and have a tight grip on costs, will be the top priorities.”

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