A RETAILER has said he is “not surprised” after a leading UK retail industry body said High Street sales fell for the first time in 25 years.

But another city trader has said that Worcester did buck the trend over the Christmas period, as it was not as bad as in other places nationally.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said total sales fell 0.1 per cent in 2019 marking the first annual sales decline since 1995, adding sales were particularly weak in November and December after falling 0.9 per cent.

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The Ultimate Party Shop closed last year, Rick Knowles, who runs Knowles Sports and Knowles Travel Goods, recently announced the shop was closing after 135 years in the city, and HMV and Mothercare are also set to close their doors.

Helen Dickinson BRC’s chief executive said the UK facing the prospect of a no deal Brexit, and political instability that concluded in a December general election weakened demand over the festive period.

This was a view shared by Derek Lines, the manager of Friar Street-based Jill Wheelock-Lines Fine Jewellery.

“It has been a tough period,” he said. “Brexit did put a dampener on things - which is strange because in the weeks after the referendum result in 2016, it was really good.

“The last year it was quiet. Running a small business things get tighter and tighter. But it is not all doom and gloom. We need things to settle and when they do, I’m optimistic.”

Michelle Rasdall, who runs Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe, in High Street, with husband Mark said they had been 10 per cent down on sales over Christmas.

“Footfall was hugely down,” Mrs Rasdall said. “But Worcester has bucked the trend. Although down, we did sell our Christmas stock, and I spoke to friends who trade elsewhere and they were much worse. The election was a distraction and after that people were panic buying, after not getting want they wanted online. I also think traders now have to adapt.”