This contrasts with the 1.2% growth registered in 2018.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive at BRC, claimed that the recent political instability and prospect of a no-deal Brexit were factors in the sales decline.
“There are many ongoing challenges for retailers: to drive up productivity, continue to raise wages, improve recyclability of products and cut waste,” she added.
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“However, this takes resources, so it is essential the new government makes good on its promise to review, and then reform the broken business rates system, which sees retail pay 25% of all business rates, while accounting for 5% of the economy.”
Stuart Law, CEO at Assetz Capital, commented: “The retail sector has been under threat from the internet for 20 years now, but recently it is having more difficulty adjusting to the changes that that brings.
“We remain cautious and selective on the sector, but there are many retail lending propositions that we do back.”
Chirag Shah, CEO at Nucleus Commercial Finance, said: “Retail businesses across the country continue to be hit by high business rates, which give increasing competitive advantage to those whose models mean they need less storefront space.
“Combine this with the cloud of uncertainty around Brexit and it’s hardly surprising that the retail sector has suffered, as the majority of consumers remain cautious about their spending.”