The UK retail sector was already undergoing fundamental change well before the Pandemic struck, as consumer shopping preferences shifted away from bricks and mortar high street-focused spending to online channels. Retailers across the board are facing a number of financial and operational challenges with high inflation, the cost of living crisis and supply-chain difficulties causing significant issues for both the top and bottom lines of profitability.


When we last looked at the UK retail market’s finances in October 2022, the economy was showing signs of recover post-pandemic only to find itself facing new supply-chain issues from the war in Ukraine and Brexit and rapidly rising inflation. Retail business were facing a barrage of challenges from peak energy prices, a reduced labour market, rising base-line costs and falling consumer spending, many of which continue to affect the retail sector today.

Our latest retail sector report uses data obtained from the Company Watch financial health monitoring system. The stand out feature of this latest analysis compared to that of October 2022 is that the average financial health rating of the whole retail sector has dropped significantly from 41 to 37 out of a maximum of 100. The sector was already well below par ten months ago, now it is in a much worse position. The data also shows a deterioration occurring at ever size of retail business, from large chain retailers to small independents.

Retailing remains hugely challenging, especially for smaller retail businesses who are struggling to service a higher debt burden than before the pandemic and with increasing numbers facing sharply higher interest rates. The cost of living crisis may be showing signs of abating, but retailers face ongoing issues both at the top line as consumers reduce their spending and at the bottom line as they deal with the pressure to limit the amount of cost inflation they pass on to customers.

The keys for retailers to be able to thrive and not just survive remain the same: flexibility, adequate funding, good management, top quality customer service and a sound business model.

Business challenges faced by the retail sector

  • Understanding customer demographics and being relevant for them
  • Downsizing and re-sizing store portfolios
  • Improving online, multi-channel and physical store experiences for consumers
  • Re-shaping staffing profiles to match changed business models
  • Improving profitability of online offerings
  • Managing the returns phenomenon
  • Staying nimble in a rapidly changing retail environment
  • Repaying loans taken out during the pandemic and after
  • Negotiating with landlords on rent arrears and future rents
  • Managing supply chain disruption from Brexit and the Ukraine conflict
  • Repairing balance sheet damage caused by falling property and other asset values
  • Making sure the business is both solvent now and viable for the future, especially with increasing base-line costs and other business expenses.
  • Securing adequate funding for future growth
  • Producing meaningful and realistic financial forecasts

Helping businesses in the Retail sector

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Market Sector Report

The UK retail sector report – finances are deteriorating as Christmas approaches

How is the UK retail market responding as finances are deteriorating in the run up to Christmas?

Read the Report