Retail sales in the UK fell for the fourth consecutive month in December, data showed, with companies including Snap Finance and UK retailer Zappos showing their biggest quarterly declines since June.
The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show the fall in retail sales in December came at the expense of the likes of UK supermarket chain Coles and fashion retailer Tommy Hilfiger.
Sales in December were down 7.4% on a year earlier and the fall is only expected to pick up over the next 12 months, with the ONS expecting to report a quarterly fall of 6.9%.
The fall in sales is likely to help ease fears about the outlook for the UK economy.
The fall was fuelled by lower prices across the board for goods and services, which hit consumer spending, and higher costs of living.
The ONS said the fall was likely to be even more pronounced in December because the UK was now expected to face a recession for the second consecutive year.
“Despite strong growth in consumer spending over the past year, the recent recession has slowed, and the outlook remains fragile,” said Philip Hammond, the UK chancellor.
“The impact of the weaker global economic outlook will have an impact on the UK’s economic outlook.
However, the current situation in the global economy will not last, and so we must expect further weak growth in the coming years.
The UK remains a very important market for retailers and our industry needs to continue to thrive.”
The UK is expected to report an annual GDP growth rate of 1.9% in the year to March 2019, which is less than half the global average of 2.1%.
However, that figure is forecast to increase to 2.3% in 2021 and 2.5% in 2023.
The UK’s economy is expected for an annual growth rate around 1.5%, with consumer spending expected to increase by around 4.5%.
The fall in UK retail retail sales comes as the UK government has begun a programme to help small businesses survive in a downturn.
The Government said the programme will see up to £10 billion of tax relief, including free council tax, be given to businesses through 2020-21, in a bid to help them grow.