Worst September on the high street in 8 years

04 October 2019

In-store sales plummet as consumers buckle under weight of uncertainty

Brexit uncertainty, falling footfall and big-name closures on the high street meant Britain’s in-store sales plummeted in September, figures released today by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP reveal.

According to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), total like-for-like in-store sales fell -3.1% in September, from an already low base of -2.7% last year, making it the worst September for the high street since 2011.

In addition, the lifestyle category saw the lowest in-store sales since the height of the recession in November 2008, as discretionary spending buckles under the weight of uncertainty. In-store sales for the category fell by -5.4% from an already poor base of -2.1% last year.

September also saw the end of a better run for fashion, as in-store like-for-like sales fell by -2.0% from a low base of -2.8% last year. This is the first negative growth in three months for the category.

Footfall was down overall in September, starting off with a decline of -2.5% and culminating in a fall of -5.8% as rain poured across the country in the last week of the month. Shopping centres experienced the worst result in the last week of the month, with footfall dropping -8.0%.

Consumers’ reluctancy to spend extended online too. Non-store results failed to prop up the poor performance of the high street in September. Non-store like-for-like results were well below the annual average, recording modest growth of just +12.4%.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said;

“As the Brexit date looms, the financial uncertainty facing consumers is reflected in the lack of discretionary spend and the lowest lifestyle sales since 2008. This, combined with the collapse of a big household name like Thomas Cook, seems to have unnerved the shopper even further.

“Cash-strapped retailers are in dire straits. It has been a disastrous year for the high street and, as consumers continue to tighten their belts, they are entering the crucial ‘golden’ trading quarter on very unsteady ground.

“Business owners have long-called for business rates reform and, while I agree this is needed, more urgent government action is required to help our failing high streets into 2020.”


Note to editors

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world. 


Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high growth businesses that fuel the economy.  

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed.  


BDO LLP operates in 17 offices across the UK, employing 5,000 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP has underlying revenues of £590m and is the UK member firm of the BDO International network.

BDO’s global network

The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 162 countries, with 80,000 people working out of 1,600 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $9bn.


Oliver Druttman or Erin Dodds

Tel:      +44(0)20 7758 3900
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