Retail sales volumes hit lowest level since Covid lockdowns

Retail volumes in October fell by 0.3 per cent to their lowest level since early 2021 when much of the UK was under Covid lockdown, new research has found.

The October figures from the latest consumer price index by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which it attributed to factors including poor weather, followed a fall of 1.1 per cent in September 2023 which it revised from the previously stated figure of 0.9 per cent.

The results indicate that consumers in October were paying 16.9 per cent more to buy 3.1 per cent less than they did in February 2020.

ONS found the biggest overall sales drop was in petrol, which fell by two per cent in October and 0.7 per cent when compared with the previous three months – a fall ONS said may have been affected by increasing fuel prices.

Food sales volumes fell by 0.3 per cent in October 2023, from being unchanged in September, while non-food volumes fell by 0.2 per cent following a 2.1 per cent fall in September.

Within non-food, clothing stores reported a 0.9 per cent sales dip.

ONS said retailers attributed this to the “continued unseasonably warm weather, particularly at the beginning of the month, affecting the sale of autumn and winter wear.”

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson stated that consumer confidence had weakened due to higher mortgage and rentals costs.

“More expensive purchases, such as laptops and electrical appliances continued to not perform well and Christmas spend took off to a slower start as households held out for Black Friday bargains,” she said. “Meanwhile, cosmetics and toiletries had another strong month, due to the ‘Lipstick Effect’ –where the high cost of living meant people spent more on smaller indulgences.”

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