Retail sales decline in September

Sales volumes across the UK retail sector fell by 0.2 per cent last month, according to the latest ONS figures.

However, despite the fall, volumes were still 4.2 per cent higher than their pre-coronavirus pandemic February 2020 levels.

Non-food stores reported a decrease of 1.4 per cent in sales volumes in September, driven largely by a decline of 9.3 per cent in the household goods markets.

Food stores did not follow the same trend, with sales increasing by 0.6 per cent last month, 3.9 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

ONS said that despite the relaxation of Covid restrictions earlier this year, in-store retail sales “remain subdued.”

The proportion of retail sales online increased to 28.1 per cent in September, compared to 27.9 per cent recorded in the previous month.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), warned that retailers will be concerned by the slump in sales as the run up to Christmas begins.

“Fuel shortages, wet weather, and low consumer confidence all contributed to lower consumer demand this month, with household goods, furniture and books all hit particularly hard. Internet sales growth showed its fourth consecutive month of decline as digital businesses struggled to maintain the level of sales seen in 2020, at the height of the pandemic,” said Dickinson, commenting on the ONS figures. “Nonetheless, internet sales still remain well above pre-pandemic levels as hybrid working made receiving parcels much more convenient than before.”

Lynda Petherick, head of retail at Accenture UKI, said that there is a “perfect storm” brewing in the final months of the year as retailers face staffing pressures and supply chain issues.

“It can’t be ignored that there is also the looming spectre of rising COVID case rates, which could see people shy away from physical retail this winter,” commented Petherick. “This reiterates one of the key lessons from the pandemic – the paramount importance of a seamless and well-prepared e-commerce offer.”

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