2019 was a pretty disappointing year for retail on both food and general, if you were to believe the headlines, with the newsflow being dominated by business failures, CVA’s and restructurings.

In terms of food retail only Tesco share price finished the year in positive territory, with gains of over 30%.

There is no question that the last decade has been a tough one for the food retail sector with the big four supermarkets feeling the squeeze from the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

Sainsbury’s was the worst performer largely as a result of the collapse of the Asda merger which blew a giant hole in its long term strategy for the business and forcing a rethink.

Food retail share price performance 2019

Source: CMC Markets

With Aldi and Lidl continuing to squeeze the market share of the bigger boys on the block and both in the midst of significant expansion plans it is more important than ever that this week’s Christmas trading numbers show some decent trading activity, particularly since in the wake of the 12th December election result it is quite likely that consumers may well have gone on a bit of a splurge.

This week we will be hearing from Morrison tomorrow, followed by Sainsbury, Marks and Spencer and Tesco on the food front later in the week, with updates on their latest quarterly trading numbers which will include the crucial Christmas and New Year period.

In terms of market share last month Tesco still remains the market leader at 27%, according to Kantar Worldpanel, followed by Sainsbury and Asda at 15.6% and 15% respectively, while Morrisons comes in 4th at 10%.

These are all lower than a year ago with Aldi creeping up to 8% in 5th position, and Lidl up to 5.9%, as both budget retailers look at ramping up their store opening programs.

The most recent Kantar numbers showed that Tesco sales fell 0.6% in the 12 weeks to 3rd November as this year alone its market share fell from 27.8% a year ago to 27% now. Tesco will be hoping that its Clubcard Plus offer which offers 10% off two big shops per month will create some cut through with those shoppers who spend more than £50 a more a week.

Sainsbury’s share price had a disappointing year, and runs the risk of dropping out of the FTSE100 if investors continue to lose faith in the current management, and their ability to turn the business around with this week’s Christmas update likely to be a key determinant in terms of whether it loses its place in the FTSE100 in the next reshuffle.

Key will be how its Argos business performs given that in its last update saw a 2% drop in sales for the 12 weeks to September. Clothing sales were also disappointing, though Q2 was noticeable by a marked improvement on Q1.

Morrisons share price has gone pretty much nowhere this year, but is continuing to work with Ocado in making its online deliveries much more efficient. Its market share has also shrunk from 10.3% to 10% this year, with year on year sales down 1.75% to £2.7bn.

In terms of general retail the picture has been no less difficult, though as with food retail the headlines have been all about the high profile failures and not the successes, with Dunelm Group and  JD Sports also set to report their latest quarterly sales and revenues numbers, after a strongly positive year, with both company’s share price up over 100% over the past 12 months.

Putting aside the headlines around the failures of House of Fraser, Debenhams and Mothercare as well as a number of smaller names like Forever 21, BonMarche, Links of London, LK Bennett and Patisserie Valerie, it has been a good year for UK general retail though the caveat should be that the gains have largely been driven by a handful of retailers.

Namely Dunelm Group, JD Sports, Frasers Group, (formerly Sports Direct) and Next which helped push the FTSE350 general retailers index to a very decent year, rising over 35%.

General Retail share price performance 2019

Source: CMC Markets

Now that we outside of the Christmas period and into 2020 investors will be paying close attention to whether the positive momentum for last year’s outperformers can be maintained, or whether we are due for a bit of a pullback, particularly for the likes of Dunelm and JD Sports.

This week’s Christmas numbers will be a decent bellwether in that regard, and will also give a decent insight into UK consumer confidence in the wake of last month’s general election result, and ahead of this month’s expected departure from the European Union.

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