Mintel forecasts tricky winter retail conditions in the UK

By Lucy Whitehouse contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mintel forecasts tricky winter retail conditions in the UK

Related tags: Retailing

Market research firm Mintel has announced predictions that point to a ‘rocky ride’ for retailers in the UK, with forecasted growth less than 2% for sales in December.

According to the firm, retail sales in the UK in December are set to reach no more than about £44.6 billion (inc. VAT), with 43% of Brits agreeing that ‘Brexit means Christmas in 2017 is likely to be more expensive’.

Another key finding released by the firm is the idea that Black Friday - a day of heavy sales activity in shops just ahead of the gift-giving season - is now ‘past its peak’.

Richard Perks, Director of Retail Research at Mintel, said: “It is likely that 2016 marked the peak for Black Friday shopping. Black Friday has been a major distorting factor in Christmas demand over the last few years and there are some signs of disillusionment creeping in."

Indeed, the market expert suggests that those retailers that do engage in the event may well be doing so out of necessity rather than choice.

Discounting in the run up to Christmas is usually a sign of distress and those who do take part will be retailers who are having trouble selling at full price​,” he suggests.

Consumer confidence slipping

Mintel says its Consumer Confidence tracker highlights that financial concern has grown over the past year for many UK shoppers.

While in October 2016 34% said they felt financially confident that they’d be OK in the next year or so, this fell to 31% who said the same in September 2017.

On top of this, while in September 2017 28% of consumers said they were worse-off than they were a year ago, this up from 20% who said the same in October 2016.

Not as bad as it could be

Perks, however, explains that the forecast is not as negative as might be expected, in his view.

The natural response to falling real incomes would be to cut back on spending. Added to the tough comparison against last year’s boom, retail sales would be expected to be lower this Christmas. But we don’t feel that we can justify such a negative forecast​.

Retail sales are holding up exceptionally well, even if they are largely financed by increased borrowing. It seems too close to Christmas for there to be a significant fall in spending this year. We also believe that people may well feel that next year will be tough, so they will have a good time now before reality strikes.”

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