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Retail Sales Volume Declined by 3.8% In November

Social distancing sign shopping retail shutterstock_1701116239.jpg

The ONS has reported retail sales figures for November 2020, covering the four-week period 1st to 28th November 2020.

Key Points

  • In November 2020, retail sales volumes decreased by 3.8% when compared with October as many stores ceased trading following government guidance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Despite the monthly fall, overall sales remain above their pre-pandemic levels.

  • In November 2020, clothing store sales saw a sharp fall in sale volumes when compared with the previous month, at negative 19.0%, as did fuel sales, which decreased by 16.6%.

  • In November 2020, food stores at 3.1% and household goods stores at 1.6% were the only sectors to show growth in monthly volume of sales.

  • The year-on-year growth rate in the volume of retail sales increased by 2.4%, with feedback from businesses suggesting that consumers had brought forward Christmas spending.

  • Online retailing accounted for 31.4% of total retailing compared with 28.6% in October 2020, with an overall growth of 74.7% in the value of sales when compared with November 2019.

  • In November 2020, we saw strong growth in value sales across all sectors when compared with the same month a year earlier. Online department store sales increased by 157.2% while household goods stores and “other” non-food stores also saw sales rise by 124.7% each. National measures during November meant physical non-essential stores were closed causing a shift to online purchasing; during this reporting period there were also extensive online Black Friday promotions.

  • The proportion of online sales increased to 31.4% compared with the 28.6% reported in October, however this is still lower than the peak witnessed during the first wave of the pandemic in May 2020 when the proportion of online sales reached 33.9%. 

  • All sectors, except non-store retailing, saw an increase in online sales on the month with department stores reporting the largest growth of 24.7%. Feedback from retailers suggests that as well as the impact of physical store closures, there was also evidence that consumers began buying Christmas gifts earlier this year and that promotional activities had increased sales.

Non-store (retailers with no physical store presence)

Non-store retailing has showed strength over the course of the pandemic despite a reduction in sales this month. The decline in November 2020 can be attributed to earlier large promotions in October, which significantly increased sales in the sector. Despite this decline, volume sales within non-store retailing remained 42.0% higher than February.

Household goods stores 

Household goods stores continued to see sales volumes grow in November (1.6%) and are now 15.2% higher than in February 2020. Sales in hardware, paints and glass stores were the main contributor to the monthly growth in November at 16.6%. Feedback from retailers suggested earlier purchases of Christmas products and home DIY goods in preparation for the festive season had boosted turnover. 

Food stores 

Food stores saw sales volumes grow by 3.1% in November when compared with October 2020 and are now 6.8% higher than February 2020 levels. Anecdotal evidence from retailers suggested that food sales have been boosted in November by the restrictions to the hospitality industry and a shift in consumer habits, with an increase in “click and collect” users boosting sales in the sector. 

“Other” non-food stores 

“Other” non-food stores, (which includes opticians, chemists, books, games, and jewellery stores) had reported volume sales above February levels for four consecutive months. However, a monthly fall of 10.1% in November saw sales fall below February’s level and they are now 1.4% lower than February levels. 

Carpet and floor covering retailers reported the largest monthly fall of 46.1% in November, while books and newspaper retailers also saw a sharp decline of 40.3%, with feedback from both sectors reporting that store closures had affected turnover. 

Clothing stores

Clothing retailers reported the sharpest decline in sales volumes in November with a monthly fall of 19.0%. Retailers commented that despite extensive online Black Friday promotions, the enforced closure of stores had affected sales. The sector has struggled to recover from the initial declines witnessed immediately after the first set of national lockdown measures, and remains 30.5% below February’s level. 

Fuel stores 

Fuel stores reported a large decline in volume sales in November with a monthly fall of 16.6%. Anecdotal evidence suggested that lockdown measures had again affected the number of journeys taken by consumers and had an impact on sales. Fuel retailers continue to see sales well below pre-lockdown levels, falling 23.8% below where they were in February 2020.

Comment

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, which showed an 7.6% increase in overall sales (retail sales excluding fuel: J3L2), Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“Retail sales growth slowed slightly, as many shops in England were forced to close during the November lockdown. Clothing, footwear and bookshops were all particularly badly affected by the forced closure over the month, including Black Friday, and saw sales drop significantly. On the other hand, higher sales from retailers who remained open, bolstered by stronger online and click-and-collect operations, kept growth positive overall in the run up to Christmas.

“This headline growth figure masks significant challenges for many businesses on high streets across the country, as sales have plummeted and they face the threat of rising costs which they cannot afford. The Government should look to support these businesses through a targeted extension to coronavirus business rates relief or we will see further unnecessary store closures and job losses.”

Source : BRC and ONS

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18 December 2020

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