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ONS: Retail Sales Rose In January

Shoppers in street

The latest ONS data on retail sales shows an increase in retail sales in January, despite falling before Christmas and amid financial pressures on households amid the cost of living crisis. 

Key points:

  • Retail sales volumes are estimated to have increased by 0.5% in January 2023, following a fall of 1.2% in December 2022 (revised from a fall of 1.0%); sales volumes were 1.4% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels. 

  • Sales volumes fell by 0.9% in the three months to January 2023 when compared with the previous three months; compared with the same period a year earlier, retail sales volumes fell by 5.7% in the three months to January 2023.

  • Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes rose by 2.0% in January 2023, with some feedback that January sales promotions supported the rise.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 1.7% in January 2023, following a rise of 0.3% in December 2022 as fuel prices continued to fall.

  • Non-food stores (department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) sales volumes rose by 0.6% over the month, following a fall of 2.5% in December 2022 with feedback from retailers that growth was supported by sales promotions; despite this pickup, sales volumes were 2.9% below their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

    - Within non-food stores, the sub-sector of other non-food stores reported a monthly rise in sales volumes of 3.6%; driven by strong growth in cosmetics stores, carpets and furnishing stores, and watches and jewellery stores.

    - Department stores sales volumes rose by 0.8% in January 2023, from a fall of 3.1% in December 2022. Some retailers reported sales starting as early as Christmas Eve and running until the end of January 2023.

    - Household goods stores sales volumes grew by 0.8% in January 2023, while clothing stores sales volumes fell by 2.9% in January 2023, following four months of positive growth.

  • Food store sales volumes fell by 0.5% in January 2023 following a fall of 0.7% in December 2022; we continue to receive feedback that customers were buying less because of increased cost of living and food prices.

  • The proportion of retail sales online fell to 25.0% in January 2023 from 25.7% in December 2022; despite this fall, it remains significantly above pre-coronavirus levels (19.8% in February 2020). 


BRC Commentary

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:


“Widespread January sales helped sales growth remain positive as the industry entered the New Year. Despite this, the rise in consumer spending could not keep up with the double-digit inflation rates, with another fall in retail volumes. Larger purchases were hit harder as consumers tightened their purse strings or traded down to value brands. Meanwhile, clothing and footwear saw stronger growth last month.”


“With consumer confidence falling slightly, and high costs throughout the supply chain preventing prices from falling, it is a bumpy road for households. However, retailers are taking steps to cut costs and limit price rises where they can, to help their hard-pressed customers.”

Source : ONS and BRC

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20 February 2023

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