Retail sales, Great Britain: October 2019

A first estimate of retail sales in volume and value terms, seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted.

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This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Charlee Humphries

Release date:
14 November 2019

Next release:
19 December 2019

1. Main points

  • In the three months to October 2019, the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 0.2% when compared with the previous three months; this is the lowest growth since April 2018.

  • Food stores were the only main sector to see growth (0.8%) in the three-month on three-month series.

  • The quantity bought in October 2019 fell by 0.1% when compared with the previous month, with only fuel and department stores reporting growth.

  • Year-on-year growth in the quantity bought increased by 3.1% in October 2019, with growth across all sectors except household goods stores.

  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing increased to 19.2% in October 2019, from the 19.0% reported in September 2019.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

This bulletin presents estimates of the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in the retail industry for the four-week period 29 September 2019 to 26 October 2019.

Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

Retail sales collects turnover data from retailers, which is money through the till before any deductions, including refunded items. This provides us with the best indicator for consumer spending during the reference period.

The Retail Sales Index (RSI) measures the value and volume of retail sales in Great Britain on a monthly basis. Data are collected from businesses in the retail industry and the survey’s results are used to produce seasonally adjusted monthly, quarterly and annual estimates of output in the retail industry at current price and at chained volume measures (removing the effect of price changes).

The RSI is an important economic indicator and one of the earliest short-term measures of economic activity. It is used in the compilation of the national accounts and widely used by private and public sector institutions, particularly by the Bank of England and Her Majesty’s Treasury to assist in informed decision- and policy-making.

Summary information can be found in the RSI Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report.

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3. Main figures for total retail sales

In October 2019, both the amount spent and the quantity bought in the retail industry reported growth of 3.3% and 3.1% respectively when compared with a year earlier (Table 1).

Comparing the three months to October with the previous three months, the amount spent increased by 0.4%, while the quantity bought increased by 0.2%.

In contrast, the monthly picture reported a slight fall of 0.1% for both the amount spent and quantity bought.

Figure 1 shows the volatile monthly growth rate against the three-month on three-month trend for a longer-term picture.

Figure 1 shows the quantity bought in retail sales over time for both the rolling three-month on three-month and the month-on-month movement. While both series show a general increase in retail sales, the monthly path shows more volatility than the smoother three-month on three-month series.

Looking at the three-month on three-month movement, from October 2016 sales were increasing at a steady rate until the beginning of 2017, when a short period of contraction was seen in the three months to March 2017. From April 2017, sales began to recover and increase steadily, although at a slower rate. From January 2018, the quantity bought began to level for a short period until May 2018, when a faster rate of growth was seen during summer 2018. This was partly attributed to consecutive months of hot weather, as sales in the three months to June, July and August 2018 increased by 2.0%, 2.6% and 2.1% respectively. Slow growth followed for a period from October 2018 to February 2019.

The monthly growth rate of 1.2% in March 2019 resulted in a stronger rate of growth in the three-month on three-month movement for three consecutive months from March to May 2019. This slowed to 0.6% in June 2019 as the growth in March 2019 falls into the previous three months. This slowdown in growth has remained in recent months with a small growth of 0.2% reported in October 2019 for the three-month on three-month series; this is the smallest growth since April 2018. In October 2019, food stores were the only main sector to see growth (0.8%) in the three-month on three-month series.

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4. Year-on-year contributions to growth by sector

The contribution to year-on-year growth to October 2019, for both the amount spent at 3.3 percentage points and the quantity bought at 3.1 percentage points, can be seen in Figure 2.

Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the year-on-year growth, with the amount spent and quantity bought both at 1.4 percentage points.

In contrast, non-food stores were the smallest contributors to growth in the amount spent at 0.3 percentage points and the quantity bought at 0.4 percentage points.

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5. Month-on-month contributions to growth by sector

Figure 3 displays the contribution by sector to month-on-month growth, with the amount spent and quantity bought both at negative 0.1 percentage points.

Food stores were the largest negative contributors to the amount spent at negative 0.2 percentage points. For the quantity bought, food stores and non-food stores both contributed negative 0.1 percentage point in October 2019.

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6. A closer look at department stores

The quantity bought in retail sales decreased by -0.1% in October 2019 when compared with September 2019, with decreases in all store types except department and fuel stores.

Displaying a different picture to all other sectors, except fuel, department stores have reported their strongest month-on-month growth this year at 2.0% for the quantity bought. This is the biggest monthly growth witnessed since May 2018 (2.9%) and is opposed to the general downward trend for the sector.

The year-on-year measure also reports growth of 0.2% in October, this is the first year-on-year growth since April of this year, following five months of falls.

Feedback from retailers suggested that increased promotions had boosted performance. There was also evidence of retailers bringing forward the sale of Christmas product lines to earlier in November than in previous years.

However, the three-month on the same period a year earlier continues to show the underlying struggles faced by stores in this sector with a fall of -1.7% in October, the eighth consecutive monthly fall for this measure.

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7. What is the story in online sales?

Table 3 shows the month-on-month and year-on-year growth rates for online retailing, by sector, in addition to the proportion of online sales to all retail sales. The percentage weights indicate where money is spent online.

Internet sales increased by 8.8% for the amount spent in October 2019 when compared with October 2018, with all sectors reporting growth except “other stores”. The decline of 1.6% for “other stores” contrasts with strong growth of 23.0% in the previous year; this was an unusually large growth in October 2018 (as displayed in the October 2018 bulletin).

The monthly picture displays growth in the amount spent online at 0.8%, with a strong growth of 6.0% reported in household goods. However, falls in growth were reported in the food and clothing sectors.

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing increased to 19.2% in October 2019, from the 19.0% reported in September 2019. This proportion has increased one percentage point from the 18.2% reported in October 2018.

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9. Quality and methodology

Our Monthly Business Survey (MBS) for retail sales measures output from the retail industry in Great Britain. It samples 5,000 businesses, with all businesses employing over 100 people or with an annual turnover of more than £60 million receiving an online questionnaire every month.

Further qualitative data or information and summary tables can be found in the accompanying datasets. This includes data on:

  • response rates
  • standard errors
  • revision triangle
  • distribution analysis

The Retail Sales Index (RSI) Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data
  • the uses and users of the data
  • how the output was created
  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data
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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Charlee Humphries
retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455602