IT’S NOT all doom and gloom for shop owners in Hereford despite the leading UK retail industry body saying high street sales fell for the first time in 25 years.

The group which represents shops in Hereford said it will continue to work hard for the city.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said total sales fell 0.1% nationally in 2019, marking the first annual sales decline since 1995.

Chief executive Helen Dickinson said the prospect of a no deal Brexit, political instability and a general election weakened demand over the festive period.

The group added sales were particularly weak in November and December, falling 0.9 per cent.

But Hereford Business Improvement District (BID), the organisation which aims to improve the commercial areas, said the city has been bucking the trend.

Operations manager Mike Truelove said while any shop closing is not a good thing, the total number of empty shops in the BID area is similar to five years ago.

“In 2015 the average number of empty shops was 56 and for 2019 it was 62,” he said.

“The ones that leave are often national chains but these have been replaced with new shops, often independents, who are able to offer something special and unique to their client base.

“The nationals we have seen go have often closed across the country, it’s not because of a particular issue in Hereford.

“I do not mean to suggest for a moment things are easy or okay in retail, but rather, that Hereford has been bucking the trend in terms of footfall.”

One of the most prominent shops on Widemarsh Street, Philip Morris and Son, were pleased with how the festive period went.

Managing partner Bruce Jones said: "We were okay, in fact. It was a funny year with Brexit, the election and everything.

"We were pleased with how we ended up in December, we haven't had a bad year.

"We started trading Sunday last year which marked quite a big change. It was part of the reason why we finished the year strongly.

"We're a traditional family business and we've resisted the change as long as we can.

"We had fears it would dilute our weekday trade, but speaking to traders, it was one of the best days in terms of footfall."

Mr Jones added offers before Christmas, including on Black Friday, also helped.