ONS confirms fifth consecutive month of rising retail sales

The value of retail sales increased by 1.4 per cent in September when compared with the previous month - and the fifth consecutive month of growth - according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report.

This was reflected in the three-month growth rate of 17.4 per cent for volume of sales – the biggest quarterly growth seen on record, as sales recovered from the low levels experienced earlier in the year.

Looking at the four main retail sectors, food stores and non-store retailing remained at higher levels than in February. Non-food stores also recovered in September, while fuel was the only sector to remain at lower levels than in February.

Volume sales within food stores were 3.7 per cent higher in September, which the ONS suggested may be a result of the government tightening restrictions for other services such as bars and restaurants at the end of September.

Non-store retailing stores saw sales 36.6 per cent higher than in February. Despite some contraction from the sharp rate of increase in this sector, consumers were still carrying out much of their shopping online when compared with February.

Within the online category, department stores were the only stores to increase sales in September when compared with August, at six per cent. Feedback from these stores stated that the online pre-ordering of a new range of gaming products helped boost their sales.

Despite monthly declines across all sectors except department stores, the proportion of online sales was at 27.5 per cent, compared with the 20.1 per cent reported in February. The proportion of online sales increased across all sectors, with food stores nearly doubling their online proportions from 5.4 per cent in February to 10.4 per cent in September.

Volume sales in household goods stores and other non-food stores increased to 11 per cent and 10.7 per cent above February, respectively. Feedback from household goods stores was that home improvement sales from DIY and electrical goods stores did well in recent months and helped with the recovery of sales.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented that the retail recovery remains fragile as the industry enters the all-important Christmas period, with November and December typically accounting for over a fifth of annual sales.

“While food and online retail continued to show strong growth, high street shopping has struggled in recent months, with footfall still down by over a third – tighter government restrictions have taken their toll on fashion and beauty sales, while home office and computing equipment has benefitted.”

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