As the year is preparing to draw to a close and Christmas shopping is in full swing I have been reflecting on how 2019 has been another tough year for the UK retail sector.

Whilst out and about over the past few weeks I have noticed that the town centers are far from bustling and the queues in department stores are no where near how long I remember them being. I won’t start on my Christmas spirit rant, but it is true that I have heard less Christmas songs and seen even less festive spirit this year, indeed there seems to have been more buzz around Black Friday and Cyber Monday than there has about the Twelve Days of Christmas.

It is certain that economic and political uncertainty has led to spending restraint from consumers, especially early on and perhaps this is why we are seeing so many sales early on in the Christmas shopping season.  Poor weather since September has impacted footfall and it seems that many consumers have turned to shopping online or not at all, rather than battling the wet and blustery elements on the UK high street. Whilst footfall has continued to steadily fall, the  operating costs from staff to business rates have continued to rise. No wonder the we have seen a number of  high street name casualties and it seems to me that the high street is doomed.

I’ve been greatly saddened by the collapse of many well established high street names this years from the 1980’s and 1990’s favourite Spudulike through to Patisserie Valerie and old names such as Thomas Cook. It seems that many stores that have become high street institutions are fading away and that many  will soon join the likes of Woolworths in the dusty pages of high street history.

iStockWith the distraction of the general election over, it will be interesting to see whether consumer spending goes up post election.  It is certain that the political uncertainty didn’t encourage consumer spending in the first two weeks of December and perhaps we will see shoppers  scurrying to buy last minutes gifts, Christmas celebrations and luxuries right up to Christmas Eve. I have certainly seen a decrease in people out shopping on Christmas Eve over the last five years and I have put this down to internet shopping and also more people working over the festive period. Indeed shopping is no longer constrained to traditional shop opening hours.

I’ve read a few reports that say consumers may be looking to spend slightly less this year, but with spending down in the first two weeks of Christmas I wonder whether retailers will see a last minute flurry of sales and ‘desperation’ purchases meaning that many budgets go out of the window.

I shall be heading out to do a few last minute Christmas shopping errands today and will be interested to see how busy stores are with Christmas shoppers. No doubt the supermarkets will still be heaving, as it seems the one area consumers don’t cut back on is food and drink.