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UK economy desperately in need of some festive cheer

Emma-Lou Montgomery

Emma-Lou Montgomery - Fidelity Personal Investing

Do you hear those festive tills ringing? No? That’s because they aren’t. Not yet, at least. Blame Brexit, blame politics in general or blame plain old bah humbug, but the numbers make for dismal reading.

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According to the latest UK grocery sales growth data from Kantar, total UK grocery sales growth slowed to 0.5% for the 12 weeks to 1 December 2019.

They put the slowdown firmly in the lap of the politicians who are distracting would-be consumers and putting them off stocking up on Christmas goodies until the general election is over.

What happens after it is all over, of course, is anyone’s guess right now.

For the supermarkets, who rely on those big Christmas shops to boost the coffers, it looks like they have a nail-biting end to the year in store. All four big supermarket groups lost market share and saw their sales decline during the period under review.

Sales at Tesco fell 0.8%, while Sainsbury's slid 1.1%, Asda fell 1.9% and Morrison's sales dropped by 2.9%.

Not so the discounters Lidl and Aldi though, who saw sales rise by 9.3% and 6.2% year-on-year, while the Co-op also achieved sales growth of 3.6%. But it was online retailer Ocado who is the shining star and continues to be the fastest growing grocery chain, with sales up 13.7% on the same period in the previous year.

Such is the dearth of seasonal spending so far that news that the UK economy grew at its slowest annual pace in nearly seven years in October, according to official figures, is even more unsettling.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that gross domestic product rose by 0.7% when compared with October 2018; and that is the weakest growth since March 2012. In the three months to October, growth was flat against the previous quarter.

Of course, all the main parties in the general election are promising to boost growth. The past two years on high streets and in shopping centres up and down the country show that it is desperately needed. But it is already too late for many and as the rout continues we can expect to see more casualties en route.

Speaking of 2020 post election and possibly even post-Brexit, we dedicated the latest episode of MoneyTalk video series to the question of what the year ahead could look like for us, as investors.

Tom Stevenson hosted a round table with Merian’s Richard Buxton, Rathbone’s James Thomson and Ayesha Akbar, manager of the Fidelity Select 50 Balanced Fund and got their expert insight on the year ahead. You can watch it below.

Important information: The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, so you may get back less than you invest. Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. Reference to specific securities should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell these securities and is included for the purposes of illustration only. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to an authorised financial adviser.

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