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The retail industry: statistics and policy

Published Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Key data on the retail sector in the UK. Government policy and pressures facing the industry are also discussed.

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Retail in the UK

The retail sector involves spending by consumers in shops and online. Supporting the retail sector, the wholesale sector involves those businesses that supply shops.

In 2017, consumers in the UK spent around £406 billion in retail purchases.

For every £1 spent in the retail sector (online and in shops),

  • 39p was spent in food stores,
  • 42p was spent in non-food stores and
  • 10p on automotive fuel.
  • The remainder was spent in other types of retailers, such as market stores or mail order catalogues.

Despite continued increase in both sales and footfall, the sector has come under pressure in recent years in a number of ways, including from the growth and evolution of supermarkets and online retailing.

The vote to leave the EU has had an effect on inflation, with the largest impact being on food prices; however, consumer confidence has remained high, contrary to expectations.

The Government made a number of policy changes in its 2011 Plan for Growth, and further measures have continued to be brought in. In the 2016 Budget, business rates for small businesses were reduced in order to boost their growth.

The Portas Review of the High Street was published in December 2011 and made a number of recommendations across a range of policy areas including planning, transport, and local government finance. In February 2012 the Government announced a competition for areas to be “Portas Pilots” to test some of the recommendations. 27 towns were chosen act as Portas Pilots; the Government reported on the progress of this project in July 2013.

Commons Briefing papers SN06186

Authors: Chris Rhodes; Philip Brien

Topics: Industry, Service industries

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