The government is also putting retail firmly on its agenda, through initiatives such as the Future High Streets Fund, High Street Task Force and the Towns Fund, and there has even been some discussion of Business Rates reform. And from an economic point of view, our 23rd Annual Global CEO survey of 1,581 CEOs showed the UK to be the fourth most important territory for investment after the US, China and Germany.

Despite all this, Christmas trading was on balance flat, or even slightly down. A late Black Friday weekend cannibalised December trading – including postChristmas sales – as more consumers bought Christmas presents early and at a discount. This was despite increased discipline by retailers on promotional activity in the critical run-up to Christmas, albeit fashion retailers remained on promotion more than other sectors.

Consumers looked for practical gifts (e.g. books, sporting equipment and educational) and good value products to decorate the home, possibly influenced by a lack of newness in fashion for example, or ‘must-buy’ products in toys or technology. Are home accessories the new “lipstick” effect when spending is more constrained and we are increasing time in the home downloading and getting food deliveries?

December 2019