Retail Sales, Great Britain: October 2021
19th November 2021
Retail sales volumes rose by 0.8% in October 2021, from a revised unchanged (0.0%) position between August and September (previous estimate was a 0.2% fall); volumes were 5.8% higher than their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic February 2020 levels.
Non-food stores was the only main retail sector that saw a rise in sales volumes, increasing by 4.2% in October 2021, because of growth in other non-food stores (7.2%), such as second-hand stores, toy stores and sports equipment stores, and clothing stores (6.2%).
Clothing stores sales volumes in October 2021 were only 0.5% below pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, with some retailers suggesting that early Christmas trading had boosted sales.
Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 6.4% in October 2021 as they returned to more typical recent levels following strong growth in September; volumes were 5.0% below their February 2020 levels.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.3% in October 2021; despite the fall in October, volumes were 3.4% above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in February 2020.
The proportion of retail sales online fell to 27.3% in October 2021, its lowest proportion since March 2020 (22.5%) but still substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic.
Non-food stores as a whole saw monthly sales volumes rise by 4.2% in October 2021 and were 4.4% above their pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in February 2020.
The sub-sector, other non-food stores, reported a monthly rise in sales volumes of 7.2% in October 2021. Within this, second-hand goods stores (charity shops and auction houses) had the largest contribution, followed by sports equipment, games and toy stores.
Clothing stores reported an increase of 6.2% over the month with feedback from some retailers suggesting that early Christmas trading had boosted sales. This is supported by analysis within the Coronavirus and social impacts release, which reported that the most common items bought or pre-ordered earlier than usual for Christmas this year included toys and clothes, shoes or accessories. The latest rise means clothing stores sales are now only 0.5% below their pre-coronavirus pandemic level.
Department stores reported an increase in monthly sales volumes of 0.6% and were 2.8% below their levels in February 2020.
Household goods stores sales volume reported a monthly decline of 0.3%. Sales volumes for household goods stores have fallen each month since their peak in May 2021, following the re-opening of non-essential retailing in April, and were 1.3% below their levels in February 2020.
Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 6.4% over the month to October. Feedback from retailers noted that increased turnover at the end of September, alongside some continuing supply issues at the beginning of October, had a downward impact on the value of their fuel sold over the month.
This is also reflected in data on UK spending on debit and credit cards, based on CHAPS payments made by credit and debit card payment processors, which reported a pick-up in its "work-related" spending category (such as fuel) from 24 September followed by a fall from 4 October 2021.
Online spending values fell in October 2021 by 0.6% when compared with September 2021. The monthly fall in online spending values resulted in a fall in the proportion of online sales to 27.3% in October 2021, from 28.1% in September.
While this is the lowest proportion of online retail spending since March 2020 (22.5%), it remains far higher than the proportion of online retail spending in February 2020, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, of 19.7%.
Read the full report at https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/october2021