Retail sales up 0.8% in October

Retail sales volumes increased by 0.8 per cent last month, according to the latest ONS figures.

The boost in retail sales came after two months of unchanged volumes.

In October, volumes were 5.8 per cent higher than their pre-coronavirus pandemic February 2020 levels.

Non-food stores was the only main retail sector that saw a rise in sales volumes, increasing by 4.2 per cent during the same period.

Clothing stores sales volumes were only 0.5 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels, with some retailers suggesting that early Christmas trading had boosted numbers.

Food store sales volumes fell by 0.3 per cent in October 2021. Despite the fall, volumes were 3.4 per cent above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in February 2020.

The proportion of retail sales online fell to 27.3 per cent in October 2021, its lowest proportion since March 2020 - 22.5 per cent - but figures were still substantially higher than the 19.7 per cent in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic.

“Retailers will be relieved by the improvement in sales as they enter the final straight in the run up to Christmas,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium (BRC.) “Footfall growth on UK streets is the highest among major EU economies, and this is clearly translating into consumer spend.”

She added: “Meanwhile online sales remain well above pre-pandemic levels as retailers ramp up their delivery and click-and-collect services. There were big improvements in clothing and footwear sales, including formalwear, as social calendars filled up and the public became increasingly confident about going out. Furthermore, with Halloween heavily curtailed by the pandemic last year, October showed chocolates and children’s costumes selling a treat as families made the most of the occasion.”

But the chief exec warned that while retailers make huge efforts to ensure essential food and gifts are available at Christmas, they are continuing to face supply chain issues.

“Labour shortages throughout the supply chains – from farms to distribution – are pushing up costs and creating some gaps on the shelves,” she said. “Nonetheless, retailers are prioritising Christmas essentials, and many have laid out their festive offerings a little earlier to ensure everyone has time to buy treats and decorations before the big day.”

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