Media releasePublished on 24 November 2022

UK small retailers face declining sales ahead of peak shopping period

Xero data shows that retail was the only industry to experience a fall in sales in October

London — 24 November 2022 — Ahead of Black Friday, Xero, the global small business platform, is calling on consumers to shop small, following the latest data showing that retail was the only small business sector to record a fall in sales in the year to October.

Xero's Small Business Index, based on anonymised and aggregated data from hundreds of thousands of small businesses, showed that UK retailers experienced a 5.1 percent drop in sales in October. While sales among the broader small business economy rose by 4.6 percent year-on-year (y/y), following a 7 percent rise in September. This shows the stark situation for independent retailers as they enter their busiest time of year.

As the festive shopping period kicks off, independent retailers need our support more than ever before.

Alex von Schirmeister, UK Managing Director

Despite the sales rise amongst small businesses as a whole, once adjusted for current high inflation (using the ONS Consumer Price Index (CPIH) of 9.6 percent for October) sales actually fell 5 percent y/y. That is, the rise in national sales was due to price increases rather than small businesses selling more goods and services.

The struggles of small retailers are further evidenced by a 6.6 percent y/y decline in the number of people being employed in the sector, while wages rose 4.7 percent y/y in October. This suggests that retailers are offering higher salaries to attract staff ahead of the festive season.

Alex von Schirmeister, UK Managing Director, Xero, said: “As the festive shopping period kicks off, independent retailers need our support more than ever before. They don’t have the large marketing budgets to promote Black Friday deals. Last week’s Autumn Statement offered little respite, so these hard-working businesses will be feeling the pressure to make up the current sales shortfall and manage recruitment challenges. We’re calling for immediate action from policymakers to ease the burden and provide some much-needed stability.”

Last week, Xero unveiled a new report at the House of Lords that outlines a four-point plan to support small business recovery, including policy recommendations for the UK Government.

Small businesses in the North being hit hardest

XSBI data for October also revealed that small businesses in the North of England are struggling. The regions that saw the largest declines in jobs were Yorkshire & the Humber (-7.7 percent y/y), West Midlands (-7.6 percent y/y), East Midlands (-7.3 percent y/y) and the North-West of England (-6.7 percent y/y).

This pattern is similar when it comes to sales. London experienced the strongest growth (+7.3 percent y/y), while Scotland (+3.1 percent y/y), East Midlands (+3.5 percent y/y), West Midlands (+3.9 percent y/y) and Yorkshire & the Humber (+4.6 percent y/y) experienced the lowest sales growth.

Payment times continue to grow

Meanwhile, the length of time small businesses wait to be paid rose by 0.6 days to 30.5 days in October. This is the sixth increase in payment times in the past seven months.

On average, late payments to small businesses by their customers increased again by 1 day, up to 8.3 days. Payments are the latest they have been since August 2020. Waiting longer to be paid puts additional stress on small business owners as they navigate their own rising bills.

More information on the October metrics is available here.


Media Contact

Xero UK | Hannah Collett | Senior Communications Manager | +44 (7989) 202079 |

About Xero

Xero is a global small business platform with 3.5 million subscribers which includes a core accounting solution, payroll, workforce management, expenses and projects. Xero also has an extensive ecosystem of connected apps and connections to banks and other financial institutions helping small businesses access a range of solutions from within Xero’s open platform to help them run their business and manage their finances. For three consecutive years (2020-2022) Xero was included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. In 2021, Xero was included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), powered by the S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment. Xero is a FIFA Women’s Football partner under FIFA’s new commercial structure.

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