UK sees 'biggest ever' decline in retail sales volumes

The UK experienced its "biggest drop in sales volumes on record" last year, according to the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Helen Dickinson said that its clear that inflation took its toll on the whole of 2022, with retail volumes falling 3.4 per cent over the 12-month period.

Her comments come as ONS releases its latest retail figures, which estimate retail sales in volume and value terms.

The organisation's study shows that sales volumes dropped for the ninth consecutive month in a row in December.

Volumes were estimated to have dropped by one per cent during the month following a decline of 0.5 per cent in November.

Overall, sales were down by 1.7 per cent in comparison to pre-covid levels during the month.

The results also revealed that non-food stores saw volumes decrease by 2.1 per cent, likely driven by consumers cutting back on spending because of price hikes and concerns about affordability.

Food store sales volumes also dropped by 0.3 per cent compared to an increase of one per cent in the previous month, with some retailers suggesting this reflects customers stocking up early for Christmas.

During the month, the proportion of online sales fell marginally from 25.9 per cent in November to 25.4 per cent in December. Figures could have been impacted by the Royal Mail strikes which led to higher in-store buying during the festive period.

“Volumes fell for the ninth consecutive month as the cost of living squeeze caused consumers to rein in December spending,” said Dickinson, commenting on the ONS research. “The high cost of household bills, particularly for energy, and rising food inflation, made for a difficult Christmas backdrop with falling consumer confidence.”

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