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Retail Sales Fell In October

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The ONS has published retail sales data for October.

Main points:

  • Retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 0.3% in October 2023, following a fall of 1.1% in September 2023 (revised from a fall of 0.9%). Retail sales volumes were at their lowest level since February 2021 when there were widespread and extensive restrictions to non-essential retail in England, Scotland and Wales.

  • When compared with their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in February 2020, total retail sales were 16.9% higher in value terms, but volumes were 3.1% lower.

  • Looking broader, sales volumes fell by 1.1% in the three months to October 2023 when compared with the previous three months.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 2.0% in October 2023; in the three months to October, sales volumes fell by 0.7% when compared with the previous three months, which may be affected by increasing fuel prices.

  • Food stores sales volumes fell by 0.3% in October 2023, from being unchanged (0.0%) in September 2023.

  • Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 0.2% in October 2023, following a 2.1% fall in September 2023; retailers suggested that cost of living, reduced footfall and the wet weather in the second half of the month contributed to the fall.

  • Household goods stores sales volumes fell by 1.1% in October 2023, mainly because of a fall from furniture stores.

  • Department stores sales volumes fell by 0.1% in October 2023, with some retailers suggesting this was because of a drop in consumer confidence.

  • Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes rose by 0.8% in October 2023 following a fall of 2.4% in September 2023.

BRC comment:

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

“With consumer confidence weakening due to higher mortgage and rental costs, sales growth in October slowed. More expensive purchases, such as laptops and electrical appliances continued to not perform well and Christmas spend took off to a slower start as households held out for Black Friday bargains. Meanwhile, cosmetics and toiletries had another strong month, due to the “Lipstick Effect”- where the high cost of living meant people spent more on smaller indulgences.

“Retailers are committed to delivering an affordable and festive Christmas for their customers, and are continuing to invest in lowering prices. But, their efforts are put at risk by the £480m-a-year increase to business rates from April 2024. The Chancellor must prioritise freezing rates in the Autumn Statement next week, or else this added cost pressure will likely push up prices for hard-pressed households.”

Source : ONS, BRC

Image : William Barton / (753265135) 

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17 November 2023

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