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UK Holiday Season Shopping 2019

Digital Retail Grows Amid High Street Woes

About This Report
The 2019 holiday season capped a tough year for physical retailers in the UK, with brick-and-mortar sales down for the second year running. However, strong gains in retail ecommerce sales meant that overall, retail sales saw growth during the season.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

In the run-up to the 2019 holidays, UK shoppers were faced with continuing Brexit concerns and a December election. Retailers were primed for the worst. However, sales were forecast to be positive, albeit with growth tempered by a struggling brick-and-mortar sector.

How did retail perform in the 2019 holiday shopping season?

Overall UK retail sales were set to grow, with the total approaching close to £100 billion ($133.32 billion) according to our forecast. However, that increase of 2.5% represents a slowdown from 2018, when the rate of growth was 3.3%.

How much of a struggle did physical retail face?

Brick-and-mortar retail sales suffered most of all during the season. We forecast a second successive year of sales declines, and these declines are deepening—a drop of 1.7% in 2018 became a 3.8% drop in 2019.

How much were digital sales responsible for the performance of holiday season sales?

Retail ecommerce holiday season sales were directly responsible for keeping the overall retail sector afloat. Expected growth of 23.0% in 2019 meant that digital was set to account for a record 28.2% of all holiday season retail sales. Even for digital, though, the growth rate was set for a slight slowdown, decreasing from 24.2% in 2018.

What’s behind these polarized trends?

In a word: Brexit. The economic and political climate in the UK in the lead-up to the holidays gave consumers the jitters. They held back from spending until the discount days and then spent heavily online. Brexit pressures felt by physical retailers, meanwhile, led to a less appealing high street for shoppers as net store closures reached a record high.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report outlines our holiday season shopping forecast, the trends underlying our assumptions, and some of the early indicators of how the season actually played out.

KEY STAT: UK retail sales during 2019’s holiday season were forecast to reach almost £100 billion ($133.32 billion). This marks a rise of 2.5% over 2018—a declining rate of growth accounted for by a struggling brick-and-mortar sector.


Bill Fisher


Angela Kim
Senior Researcher
Monica Peart
Senior Director, Forecasting
Karin von Abrams
Principal Analyst
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