UK retail sales bounce back
In an interesting and pleasantly surprising turn of events, retail sales went up in January. After a significant slow-down in October and poor sales throughout much of 2018, this is excellent news.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), sales rose by 1% in January compared with December 2018, and they were 4.2% higher than in January 2018. This was the biggest annual rise since December 2016 and was completely unexpected in most quarters.
The ONS went on to say that the strongest sales were in clothing stores, with price reductions and other discounts increasing sales. Sales in the food market were also higher. The British Retail Consortium broadly agrees on the findings of the ONS, although some commentators fear that low consumer confidence will stop them from buying cars, moving house and booking holidays.
It’s difficult to be sure of the reasons for the sales increase, with different commentators proposing different theories ranging from reduced concerns about Brexit to consumers maintaining a positive attitude. However, one theory is that those stores that have taken steps to improve the customer shopping experience are helping their sales. Places that make it easy for customers to shop or maybe just even browse stand a far better chance of getting people across the threshold.
What improves sales?
Some stores are using in-store media to do just this. This involves using a mix of some of our senses (sight, sound and smell) with technological solutions to help anchor customers to particular stores. It might be that one store maximises the use of sensory marketing, and another might have a particular music playlist that is unique to them. Another store might have giant TV screens with visually appealing images. There are examples of this kind of marketing online on sites such as in-store media at Mood Media, which explain in more detail about how the whole in-store media experience works.
Reading the economy is never a simple task, and with a number of high street stores going out of business, this upturn in sales may just be a fluke. The truth is that no one really knows. The ONS also reported that online sales went down to 18.8% compared with 19.8% in December. Could that be because the shopping experience is just not the same online? Only time will tell.