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Statistical bulletin: Retail Sales, January 2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 17 February 2012 Download PDF

Retail Sales, January 2012

  • Value of retail sales in January 2012 showed an increase of 4.4 per cent compared with January 2011.
  • Sales volumes in January 2012 increased 2.0 per cent when compared with January 2011.
  • Sales volumes were driven primarily by non-store retailing, other stores and predominantly food stores.
  • The year on year implied price deflator slowed to show inflation of 2.2 per cent, the lowest since 1.0 per cent in November 2009.

Key figures

All retailing, January 2012 (seasonally adjusted percentage change)

  Most recent month on a year earlier Most recent 3 months on a year earlier Most recent month on previous month Most recent 3 months on previous 3 months
Value  4.4 5.0 0.9 1.6
Volume 2.0 1.7 0.9 1.3
Value excluding automotive fuel 3.8 3.6 1.1 1.2
Volume excluding automotive fuel 1.9 1.1 1.2 1.0

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A podcast video is available on the ONS YouTube Channel.

Supplementary Analysis

In January 2012, seasonally adjusted all retailing sales volumes increased by 2.0 per cent compared with January 2011 and by 0.9 per cent compared with December 2011.

As shown in chart one below the non-seasonally adjusted retail sales volume index peaks in a December and then falls again in January. Seasonal adjustment removes these peaks and troughs and leaves a series that allows us to interpret the underlying movement in retail sales and any irregular movements. More information on seasonal adjustment is available in the methods section of the background notes.

Chart 1: All retailing sales volumes, October 2009 to January 2012

Chart 1: All retailing sales volumes, October 2009 to January 2012

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After allowing for these seasonal effects, it is not unusual to see year on year or month on month growth in a January as charts 2 below shows. The contraction in January 2010 was likely to have been caused by harsh winter weather.

Chart 2: January, year on year growth rates, 2005 to 2012

Chart 2: January, year on year growth rates, 2005 to 2012

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Comparing volume sales with value sales

In January 2012, seasonally adjusted all retailing sales values increased by 4.4 per cent compared with January 2011 and by 0.9 per cent compared with December 2011.

The index levels of the volume and value series between October 2009 and January 2012, shown in chart 3, show that the volume series has remained broadly flat until around August 2011 and then shows a modest increase whereas the value series continues to increase at a much faster pace throughout the period shown. This implies that the increase in the value series is largely driven by an increase in prices rather than an increase in the amount bought.

Chart 3: All retailing volume and value indices (seasonally adjusted) October 2009 to January 2012

Chart 3: All retailing volume and value indices (seasonally adjusted) October 2009 to January 2012

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Prices

The implied price deflator which estimates store price inflation, slowed in January 2012 to 2.2 per cent at an annual rate, falling from 2.5 per cent in December 2011.

In January 2011 store price inflation was estimated to have increased by 3.8 per cent at an annual rate. However it is worth noting that in January 2011 VAT rose to 20 per cent from 17.5 per cent. Although VAT is not applied to all goods sold by retailers, for example most food items are VAT exempt, this rise was a major reason for higher store price inflation throughout 2011.

In January 2012 store price inflation was mainly driven by an increase in the prices of goods sold at automotive fuel stores, food stores and textile, clothing and footwear stores.

Size of store

Looking now at non-seasonally adjusted data available in table 7 of the reference tables we see that small businesses fared better than large stores. Compared with January 2011, retail sales values in January 2012 saw:

  • all businesses retail sales values increase by 4.1 per cent,

  • small businesses sales values increase by 8.5 per cent and

  • large businesses sales values increase by 3.0 per cent.

When sales values from fuel stores are excluded this difference is even more marked. Compared with 2011, retail sales value excluding automotive fuel in January 2012 saw:

  • all retailing sales values increase by 3.5 per cent,

  • small businesses sales values increase by 9.6 per cent and

  • large businesses sales values increase by 2.0 per cent.

Retail Sales in detail

The Retail Sales Index (RSI) measures spending (value) and volume of retail sales in Great Britain. Figures are adjusted for seasonal variations unless otherwise stated and the reference year for both value and volume statistics is 2008 = 100. For an explanation of the terms used in this bulletin, please see the background notes section. Care should be taken when using the month on month growth rates due to their volatility, an assessment of the quality of the retail statistics is available in the background notes. 

Year on year growth rates and contributions to all retailing by sector

    % of all retailing Volume (SA) Year on year growth (%) Contribution to all retailing (% points) Value   (SA)    Year on year growth (%) Contribution to all retailing (% points)
All retailing  100.0 2.0 4.4
             
Predominantly food stores 41.7 0.9 0.4 4.3 1.9
             
Predominantly non-food stores          
Total   43.2 1.5 0.6 2.3 1.0
Non-specialised stores 7.8 0.3 0.0 -0.3 0.0
Textile, clothing and footwear stores 12.2 0.5 0.1 3.6 0.4
Household goods stores 9.7 1.3 0.1 1.2 0.1
Other stores 13.5 3.4 0.4 3.3 0.5
             
Non-store retailing 4.9 13.3 0.7 13.0 0.6
             
Automotive fuel   10.2 2.8 0.3 8.5 0.9

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Amount spent in retail

In January 2012 an estimated £24.6 billion was spent in the retail sector, compared to £42.1 billion in December 2011 and £23.6 billion in January 2011.

Internet sales

The experimental Internet Sales estimates include sales made over the internet by all retailers that is they include on-line sales from supermarkets, department stores, clothing stores and predominantly non-store retailers. 

In January 2012 the non-seasonally adjusted average weekly sales value of Internet retail sales was estimated at £640.4 million which was approximately 11.9 per cent of all retail sales (excluding automotive fuel). In January 2011 non-seasonally adjusted average weekly sales value of Internet retail sales was £462.1 million which was approximately 8.9 per cent of retail sales (excluding automotive fuel).

Sector Analysis

Predominantly food stores sales volumes in January 2012 increased 0.9 per cent compared to January 2011. Sales values increased 4.3 per cent over the same period. Average price growth slowed over the period to 3.5 per cent the slowest annual growth since 3.3 per cent in August 2010.

In January 2012 an estimated £10.2 billion was spent in this sector.

Predominantly food stores, seasonally adjusted

Predominantly food stores, seasonally adjusted

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Non-specialised stores sales volumes increased by 0.3 per cent compared to January 2011 the lowest growth since a decrease of 4.9 per cent in February 2009. Sales values decreased 0.3 per cent over the same period, the first decrease since a decrease of 6.4 per cent in February 2009. Average prices were estimated to have fallen 0.3 per cent compared with January 2011.

In January 2012 an estimated £1.8 billion was spent in this sector.

Predominantly non-food stores, seasonally adjusted

Predominantly non-food stores, seasonally adjusted

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Textile, clothing and footwear stores sales volumes increased 0.5 per cent compared to January 2011 while sales values increased 3.6 per cent over the same period. Textile, clothing and footwear stores was the only sector to record an acceleration in annual price growth from 2.0 per cent in December 2011 to 2.9 per cent in January 2012.

In January 2012 an estimated £2.8 billion was spent in this sector.

Textile, clothing and footwear stores, seasonally adjusted

Textile, clothing and footwear stores, seasonally adjusted

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Household goods stores sales volume increased 1.3 per cent from January 2011. Sales values increased 1.2 per cent over the same period. Average prices showed a fall of 0.7 per cent.

In January 2012 an estimated £2.4 billion was spent in this sector.

Household goods stores, seasonally adjusted

Household goods stores, seasonally adjusted

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Other stores volumes sales rose 3.4 per cent in the year to January 2012 the largest rise since March 2011 3.5 per cent. Sales values also rose as the fastest rate since March 2010 at 3.3 per cent. Average prices fell 0.1 per cent from January 2011.

In January 2012 an estimated £3.0 billion was spent in this sector.

Non-store retailing sales volumes rose 13.3 per cent from January 2011. Sales values increased 13.0 per cent over the same period. Average price deflation slowed to 0.3 per cent in the year to January 2012 down from 0.7 per cent in the year to December 2011.

In January 2012 an estimated £1.4 billion was spent in this sector.

Predominantly automotive fuel stores sales volumes increased 2.8 per cent compared to January 2011. Sales values increased 8.5 per cent over the same period the lowest annual growth since December 2010, 2.8 per cent. Average price inflation slowed to 5.3 per cent in the year to January 2012 the lowest level since October 2009 when average prices fell 0.8 per cent.

In January 2012 an estimated £3.0 billion was spent in this sector.

Predominantly automotive fuel, seasonally adjusted

Predominantly automotive fuel, seasonally adjusted

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Distribution Analysis

The table opposite illustrates the mix of experiences among different sized retailers. It shows the distribution of the reported increase in sales values of businesses in the RSI sample, ranked by size of business (based on number of employment). For example, this shows that the largest retailers, with 100 or more employment, reported an average increase in sales of 3.0 per cent between January 2011 and January 2012.

Increase in reported retail sales values between December 2010 and December 2011 standard reporting periods (by size and of business)

Per cent
Number of employment Weights Growth since January 2011
100+ 77.6 3.0
40-99 2.1 3.4
10-39 6.0 1.5
0-9 14.3 24.2

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Analysis of individual returns from businesses

The table below illustrates the extent to which individual businesses experienced actual changes in their sales between January 2011 and January 2012. The table contains information only from businesses which reported in both periods. Cells with values less than 10 are suppressed for some classification categories, this is denoted by n.a. Note that large is defined as 100+ employment and 10-99 employment with annual turnover of more than £60m, while small and medium is defined as 0-99 employment.

See reference table Analysis of individual returns from businesses January 2012.

RFT RSI Analysis of individual returns from businesses January 2012 (30.5 Kb Excel sheet)

Background notes

  1. What's new?

    There are no methodological changes this month.

  2. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.

  3. Understanding the data

    Quick Guide to the Retail Sales Index (116.9 Kb Pdf)

    Interpreting the data

    The Retail Sales Index (RSI) is derived from a monthly survey of 5,000 businesses in Great Britain. The sample represents the whole retail sector and includes all large retailers and a representative panel of smaller businesses. Collectively all of these businesses cover approximately 95 per cent of the retail sector in terms of turnover.

    The RSI covers sales only from businesses registered as retailers according to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), an internationally agreed convention for classifying industries. The retail sector is division 47 of the SIC 2007 and retailing is defined as the sale of goods to the general public for household consumption. Consequently the RSI includes all internet businesses whose primary function is retailing and also covers internet sales by other British retailers, such as online sales by supermarkets, department stores and catalogue companies. The RSI does not cover household spending on services bought from the retail sector as it is designed to only cover goods. Respondents are asked to separate out the non-goods elements of their sales, e.g. income from cafeterias. Consequently on-line sales of services by retailers, such as car insurance, would also be excluded.

    The monthly survey collects two figures from each sampled business: the total turnover for retail sales for the standard trading period, and a separate figure for sales made over the internet. The total turnover will include internet sales. The separation of the internet sales figure allows an estimate relating to internet sales to be calculated separately.

    Definitions and explanations

    The value or current price series records the growth since the base period (currently 2008) of the value of sales ‘through the till’ before any adjustment for the effects of price changes.

    The volume or constant price series are constructed by removing the effect of price changes from the value series. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is the main source of the information required on price changes. In brief, a deflator for each type of store (5-digit SIC) is derived by weighting together the CPI’s for the appropriate commodities, the weights being based on the pattern of sales in the base year. These deflators are then applied to the value data to produce volume series.

    The estimated prices of retail sales (sometimes called the implied price deflator) is derived by comparing the value and volume data non-seasonally adjusted. In general, this implied price deflator should be quite close to the retail component of the CPI.

    Experimental statistics are those which are in the testing phase and are not yet fully developed. The main reason why the Internet retail sales are designated as experimental is that the methods and data sources are still being improved. Here is more information on the   internet retail sales strategy. 

    Use of the data

    The value and volume measures of retail sales estimates are widely used in private and public sector institutions, particularly by the Bank of England and Her Majesty’s Treasury, to assist in informed decision and policy making.

  4. Methods

    Information on retail sales methodology is available on the Retail Sales Guidance and Methodology pages.

    A video explaining retail sales is available on the ONS YouTube Channel.

    Composition of the data

    Estimates in the Statistical Bulletin are based on financial data collected through the monthly Retail Sales Inquiry. The response rates for the current month reflect the response rates at the time of publication. Late returns for the previous month’s data are included in the results each month. Response rates for historical periods are updated to reflect the current level of response at the time of this publication.

    Overall response rates

    Per cent
    Overall response rates
    Period   Turnover Forms
    2012 Jan 91.8 61.1
    2011 Dec 93.9 78.5
    Nov 95.3 80.9
      Oct 98.4 81.2

    Table source: Office for National Statistics

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    Seasonal adjustment

    Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (e.g. Easter moving between March and April) and seasonal effects (e.g. increased spending in December as a result of Christmas) from the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) estimates. Seasonal adjustment is performed each month, and reviewed each year, using the standard, widely used software, X-12-ARIMA. Before adjusting for seasonality, prior adjustments are made for calendar effects (where statistically significant) such as: returns that do not comply with the standard trading period (see section methods, calendar effects), bank holidays, Easter and the day of the week Christmas occurs.

    Calendar effects

    The calculation of the RSI has an adjustment to compensate for calendar effects which arise from the differences in the reporting periods. The reporting period for January 2012 was 1 January 2012 to 28 January 2012 compared with 2 January 2011to 29 January 2011 the previous year. For example, the annual growth in sales volume between January 2011 and January 2012 requires 0.4 per cent adjustment to take account of the differences in reporting periods and other calendar effects.

    The following table shows the difference between the calendar and seasonally adjusted estimates.

    Calendar Effects

    Year on year percentage change
    Value Volume
    Calendar adjusted 4.5 2.3
    Seasonally adjusted 4.4 2.0

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  5. Quality

    Basic quality information

    The standard reporting periods can change over time due to the movement of the calendar. Every five or six years the standard reporting periods are brought back into line by adding an extra week. For example, January is typically a four week standard period but January 1986, 1991, 1996, 2002 and 2008 were all five week standard periods. The non-seasonally adjusted estimates will still contain calendar effects. If the non-seasonally adjusted estimates are used for analysis this can lead to a distortion depending on the timing of the standard reporting period in relation to the calendar, previous reporting periods and how trading activity changes over time.

    The non-seasonally adjusted series contain elements relating to the impact of the standard reporting period, moving seasonality and trading day activity. When making comparisons it is recommended that users focus on the seasonally adjusted estimates as these have the systematic calendar related component removed. Due to the volatility of the monthly data, it is recommended that growth rates are calculated using an average of the latest three months of the seasonally adjusted estimates.

    When interpreting the data, consideration should be given to the relative weighted contributions of the sectors within the all retailing series. Based on SIC 2007 data, Total retail sales consists of: predominantly food stores 41.7 per cent, predominantly non-food stores 43.2 per cent, non-store retailing 4.9 per cent and automotive fuel 10.2 per cent.

    Standard errors

    A measure of the accuracy of the RSI has been produced by estimating the standard errors of index movements. For more detail see the article by Winton, J and Ralph, J (2011) ‘ Measuring the accuracy of the Retail Sales Index’ (2.65 Mb Pdf) , Economic & Labour Market Review, February 2011.

    Summary Quality Report

    A Summary Quality Report for the RSI (245.6 Kb Pdf) can be found on the ONS website. This report describes, in detail the intended uses of the statistics presented in this publication, their general quality and the methods used to produce them.

    Revision triangles

    Revisions to data provide one indication of the reliability of key indicators. The table below shows summary information on the size and direction of the revisions which have been made to the volume data covering a five year period. Note that changes in definition and classification mean that the revision analysis is not conceptually the same over time. A statistical test has been applied which has shown that the average revision in month to month statistics are not statistically different from zero.

    All retailing, volume seasonally adjusted, revision triangles summary, January 2012

    Volume seasonally adjusted
    Growth in latest period (per cent) Revisions between first publication and estimates twelve months later (percentage points)
    Average over the last five years (mean revision) Average over the last five years without regard to sign (average absolute revision)
    Latest three months compared to previous three months 1.3 -0.22 0.33
    Latest month compared to previous month 0.9 -0.10 0.43

    Download table

    A spreadsheet giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table is available to download under 'Data in this release'.

  6. Relevant links

    Methodological changes were introduced in the April 2009 and January 2010 releases. For more detail see:

    More details on changes in 2009 include

    Changes to retail sales methodology (124.3 Kb Pdf)

    For videos on retail sales please see the ONS YouTube Channel

  7. Publication policy

    Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office. Also available is a list of the organisations given pre-publication access to the contents of this bulletin (38.5 Kb Pdf) .

  8. Accessing data

    The complete run of data in the tables of this statistical bulletin is available to view and download in electronic format using the ONS Time Series Data service. Users can download the complete bulletin in a choice of zipped formats, or view and download their own sections of individual series. The Time Series Data can be accessed at: info@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

  9. Copyright and reproduction

    © Crown copyright 2012

    Under the terms of the Open Government Licence and UK Government Licensing Framework, anyone wishing to use or re-use ONS material, whether commercially or privately, may do so freely without a specific application for a licence, subject to the conditions of the OGL and the Framework.

    For further information, contact the Office of Public Sector Information, Crown Copyright Licensing and Public Sector Information, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU.

    Tel: +44 (0)20 8876 3444

  10. Follow ONS on Twitter or Facebook or view our podcasts on YouTube.
  11. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Statistical contacts

Name Phone Department Email
Kate Davies +44 (0)1633 455602 Retail Sales retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Get all the tables for this publication in the data section of this publication .
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