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

Released: 20 December 2012 Download PDF

Key points

  • In November 2012, year-on-year estimates of retail sales volumes continued to show upward movements that have been seen in the retail sector since August 2011. However, this is not a long term pattern for the retail sector which overall, between 2007 and 2012, has been relatively flat.
  • Compared with November 2011, the quantity of goods bought (all retailing seasonally adjusted sales volumes) in November 2012 was estimated to have increased by 0.9%. Between the same periods the amount spent (all retailing seasonally adjusted sales values) was estimated to have increased by 1.5%.
  • Looking at the monthly picture (November 2012 compared with October 2012) there was no change in the quantity of goods bought and a fall of 0.1% in the amount spent, following decreases in both the quantity bought and the amount spent between September and October.
  • The estimated prices of goods sold in the retail sector were estimated to have increased by 0.5% compared with November 2011 following a 0.9% increase between October 2011 and October 2012.
  • Consistent with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), which remained at 2.7% in November 2012, one of the main sources of upward pressure to the estimated prices of goods sold in the retail sector was price rises in stores selling food.
  • The estimated proportion of retail sales made online in November 2012 (Internet sales, non-seasonally adjusted) increased by 1.4% compared with October 2012 and increased by 0.5% compared with November 2011. The estimated average weekly spend online in November 2012 was £711 million compared with £658 million in November 2011.
  • Across all retailing an estimated £7.3 billion was spent weekly in November 2012 and in November 2011. This indicates that while consumers continued to spend approximately the same amount as they did last year, this year they spent more online and less in store.
  • The November 2012 period covers the dates 28 October 2012 to 24 November 2012.

Key figures

Table 1: All Retailing, November 2012 (estimated 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
Amount spent (Value)  1.5 2.1 -0.1 1.1
Quantity bought (Volume)   0.9 1.4 0.0 0.0
Value excluding automotive fuel 2.7 2.7 0.1 0.7
Volume excluding automotive fuel   2.0 2.1 0.1 0.0

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The ONS Retail Sales Index (RSI) is calculated from a sample of 5,000 retailers representing approximately 90% of all known retail activity within Great Britain. The sample contains the 900 largest retailers, i.e. businesses employing more than 100 employees or with annual turnover greater than £60 million, and a random sample of smaller retailers. Retailers in the sample are asked to provide their total retail sales turnover and total turnover for sales made via the Internet for the specified period. The RSI is used to inform decisions on the current economic performance of the retail sector and is a data source for Gross Domestic Product.

At a glance

In November 2012 the quantity of goods bought in the retail sector (volume) was estimated to have increased by 0.9% compared with November 2011. The amount spent was estimated to have increased by 1.5% over the same period. The estimated prices of goods sold in the retail sector (as measured by the implied price deflator) have increased by 0.5% since November 2011.

Long Term Picture

To enable a comparison of change, Figure 1 shows the estimated quantity of goods bought in the retail sector (all retailing sales volumes) as indices referenced to 2009. It shows that in the early years of this series the underlying pattern in the retail sector was one of growth. However, this changed around November 2007, and the quantity of goods bought in the retail sector hovered around the 100 index points level until September 2011. This indicates that during this period the quantity of goods bought in the retail sector was relatively flat. From September 2011 the quantity of goods bought in the retail sector has shown slight increases but much less than between 2000 and 2007.

Figure 1, All retailing (seasonally adjusted) sales volumes

Figure 1, All retailing (seasonally adjusted) sales volumes

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Economic Context

The economic outlook for UK retail sales appears to be quite uncertain: while the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) recorded upward pressure on the estimated prices of goods sold, particularly food, consumer confidence rose in November, according to the monthly GFK Survey.

Household’s real incomes – defined as average weekly earnings having accounted for inflation - are still decreasing, which has led to a fall in consumer buying power, especially for the ‘squeezed middle’. This has led to long-term changes in purchasing habits, such as the move to internet shopping, which has increased once again.

Contributions to Growth

The retail industry is divided into four retail sectors; predominantly food stores, predominantly non-food stores, non-store retailing and stores selling automotive fuel. In November 2012 for every pound spent on retail goods 41 pence was spent in food stores, 42 pence in non-food stores, 5 pence in non-store retailing and 12 pence was spent on fuel. Using these as weights along with the year-on-year growth rates we can calculate how each sector contributed to the total year-on-year growth in the quantity bought.

Figure 2, shows the contribution each of these sectors have had to the total quantity bought in retail over the period November 2011 to November 2012.

Figure 2, Contributions to volume growth from the four main sectors to total retailing

Figure 2, Contributions to growth from the four main sectors to total retailing

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The chart shows that the main upward contribution to the total year-on-year growth of 0.9% came from non-food stores. The growth of 3.7% in November 2012 compared with November 2011, contributed 1.7 percentage points to the total year-on-year growth. The large year-on-year fall in the quantity bought at petrol stations of 8.8% in November 2012 pulled the total growth down by 1.0 percentage points.

Internet Sales

In November 2012, Internet sales (online sales for all retailers) were estimated to be 10.8% of all retail sales. This is a rise from 9.4% in October 2012 and 10.3% in November 2011. This is the highest proportion of online sales since the series began in November 2006, (it should be noted that the peak in internet sales usually occurs in November with the proportion falling in December). Feedback from retailers suggests that this increase is a result of their investment into their internet sites, as well as promotions held online only and not in store.

Figure 3, Internet sales as a proportion of all retailing, non-seasonally adjusted

Figure 3, Internet sales as a proportion of all retailing, non-seasonally adjusted

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Across all retailing an estimated £7.3 billion was spent weekly in November 2012 and in November 2011, therefore consumers spent approximately the same amount in retail this year as they did last. However, looking at the average weekly spend online, weekly spend was estimated at £711 million in November 2012 compared with £658 million in November 2011. This indicates that while consumers continued to spend approximately the same amount as they did last year, this year they spent more online and less in store. 

Retail sales in detail

The Retail Sales Index (RSI) measures spending on retail goods (value) and the quantity of goods bought (volume) in Great Britain. Figures are adjusted for seasonal variations unless otherwise stated and the reference year for both value and volume statistics is 2009=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.

Table 2: Seasonally Adjusted Year-on-Year Growth Rates and Contribution to all Retailing by Sector

      % of all retailing Volume year-on-year growth (%) Contribution to all retailing (% points) Value year-on-year growth (%) Contribution to all retailing (% points)
All retailing  100.0 0.9 1.5
               
Predominantly food stores 41.3 -0.3 -0.1 2.7 1.1
               
Predominantly non-food stores          
Total     41.6 3.7 1.7 2.6 1.1
Non-specialised stores 7.8 5.8 0.5 3.9 0.3
Textile, clothing and footwear stores 12.3 2.0 0.3 2.0 0.2
Household goods stores 8.8 3.6 0.4 2.0 0.2
Other stores   12.7 4.1 0.5 2.7 0.4
               
Non-store retailing   5.3 5.5 0.3 4.0 0.2
               
Automotive fuel     11.8 -8.8 -1.0 -7.5 -0.9

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Amount Spent in Retail

In the November 2012 four week reporting period the estimated amount spent in the retail sector was £29 billion (non-seasonally adjusted). This compares with an estimated £27 billion in the October 2012 four week reporting period and £29 billion in the November 2011 four week reporting period.

This equates to an average estimated weekly spend of £7.3 billion in November 2012, £6.8 billion in October 2012 and £7.3 billion in November 2011.

Internet sales

Key Points

  • The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in November 2012 was estimated at £710.9 million, which was an increase of 8.1% when compared with November 2011.

  • The amount spent online was estimated to account for 10.8% of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel.

  • As expected, more was spent online in the non-store retailing sector than any other sector. Spending online now accounts for 67.4% of total spending in this sector down from 70.4% in November 2011. In the food sector 3.3% of spending was spent online, up from 3.1% a year earlier. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spend in relation to all spending.

Internet Sales in Detail

Internet sales measure how much was spent online through retailers in Great Britain. Figures are non-seasonally adjusted and the reference year is 2010=100. Table 3 shows the year-on-year growth rates for total Internet sales, by sector and the contribution that each sector makes to total Internet sales.

Table 3: Summary of Internet Sales Performance for November 2012

Category Weight Year on year growth % Contribution to year on year growth % points
All retailing 100 8.1 :
All food 17.3 12.0 2.1
All non-food 41.4 19.2 7.9
  Department stores 7.0 27.2 1.9
  Textile, clothing and footwear stores 11.7 25.6 3.0
  Household goods stores 8.2 22.9 1.9
  Other stores 14.5 5.7 0.8
Non-store retailing 41.3 -0.7 -0.3

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Sector summary

Predominantly food stores in November 2012 saw a decrease in the quantity of goods bought (0.3%) and an increase in the amount spent (2.7%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have increased by 3.0% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 estimated average weekly sales were £2.9 billion; of this, 3.3% of sales (£97 million) were made via the Internet.

Predominantly non-food stores in November 2012 saw an increase in the quantity of goods bought (3.7%) and the amount spent (2.6%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have decreased by 1.1% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 the estimated average weekly sales were £3.1 billion; of this, 8.9% of sales (£280 million) were made via the Internet.

Non-specialised stores, or department stores, in November 2012 saw an increase in the quantity of goods bought (5.8%) and the amount spent (3.9%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have decreased by 1.8% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 estimated average weekly sales were £0.6 billion; of this, 9.5% of sales (£60 million) were made via the Internet.

Textile, clothing and footwear stores in November 2012 saw an increase in the quantity of goods bought (2.0%) and the amount spent (2.0%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have increased by 0.1% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 estimated average weekly sales were £0.9 billion; of this, 11.2% of sales (£101 million) were made via the Internet.

Household goods stores in November 2012 saw an increase in the quantity of goods bought (3.6%) and the amount spent (2.0%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have decreased by 1.2% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 estimated average weekly sales were £0.6 billion; of this, 6.4% of sales (£40 million) were made via the Internet.

Other stores in November 2012 saw an increase in the quantity of goods bought (4.1%) and in the amount spent (2.7%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have decreased by 1.7% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 estimated average weekly sales were £1.0 billion; of this, 8.2% of sales (£79 million) were made via the Internet.

Non-store retailing in November 2012 saw an increase in the quantity of goods bought (5.5%) and the amount spent (4.0%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have decreased by 1.2% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 estimated average weekly sales were £0.5 billion; of this, 67.4% of sales (£333 million) were made via the Internet.

Predominantly automotive fuel stores in November 2012 saw a decrease in the quantity of goods bought (8.8%) and the amount spent (7.5%) when compared with November 2011. The prices of goods sold were estimated to have increased by 1.4% in the year to November 2012.

In November 2012 estimated average weekly sales were £0.8 billion.

Distribution analysis

Table 4 illustrates the mix of experiences among different sized retailers. It shows the distribution of reported change in sales values of businesses in the RSI sample, ranked by size of business (based on number of employees). This table shows for example, that the largest retailers, with 100 or more employees, reported an average increase in sales values of 1.6% between November 2011 and November 2012. In contrast smaller retailers employing 10 to 39 employees reported an average increase in sales of 4.7%.

Table 4: Changes in reported retail sales values between November 2011 and November 2012 (standard reporting periods by size of business)

Number of employees Weights (%) Growth since November 2011 (%)
100+ 79.3 1.6
40-99 2.0 8.0
10-39 5.9 4.7
0-9 12.9 -3.8

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Analysis of Individual Returns from Businesses

The reference table, Business Analysis (30.5 Kb Excel sheet) shows the extent to which individual businesses reported actual changes in their sales between November 2011 and November 2012. The table contains information only from businesses that reported in November 2011 and November 2012. Cells with values less than 10 are suppressed for some classification categories; this is denoted by n.a. Note that ‘large’ businesses are defined as those with 100+ employees and 10–99 employees with annual turnover of more than £60 million, while ‘small and medium’ is defined as 0–99 employees.

Background notes

  1. Improvements to be introduced next month

    From January 2013, ONS plan to stop producing the summary statistics table (57.5 Kb Excel sheet) . If these data are essential to you please notify ONS at the e-mail address in the “Contact us” section below and we will reconsider our plans.

  2. What’s New

    Not applicable this month.

  3. Understanding the data

    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 the 900 largest retailers and a representative panel of smaller businesses. Collectively all of these businesses cover approximately 90% 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, for example income from cafeterias. Consequently, online 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 2009) 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 Prices 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 CPIs 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 implied deflator or the estimated price of goods 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.

    Use of the data

    • The value and volume measures of retail sales estimates are widely used in private and public sector organisations. For example, private sector institutions such as investment banks, the retail sector itself and retail groups use the data to inform decisions on the current economic performance of the retail sector, these organisations are most interested in a long term view of the retail sector that can be obtained from year-on-year growth rates. Public sector institutions use the data to assist in informed decision and policy making and tend to be most interested in a snapshot view of the retail sector, which is taken from the month-on-month growth rates.

  4. Methods

    Information on retail sales methodology

    Composition of the data

    • Estimates in this 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.

    Table 5: Overall Response Rates

    Per cent
    Overall response rates
    Period   Turnover Questionnaire
    2012 Nov 89.4 65.3
    Oct 96.7 79.6
    Sep 96.6 82.0
      Aug 97.9 82.9

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    Seasonal adjustment

    Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (for example Easter moving between March and April) and seasonal effects (for example 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 on which Christmas occurs.

    The data collected from the retail sales survey is the amount of money taken through the tills of retailers; these are non-seasonally adjusted data. These data consists of three components:

    • trend which describes long-term or underlying movements within the data,

    • seasonal which describes regular variation around the trend, that is peaks and troughs within the time series, the most obvious in this case being the peak in December and the fall in January,

    • irregular or ‘noise’, for example deeper falls within the non-seasonally adjusted series due to harsh weather impacting on retail sales.

    To ease interpretation of the underlying movements in the data, the seasonal adjustment process estimates and removes the seasonal component to leave a seasonally adjusted time series consisting of the trend and irregular components.

    In the non-seasonally adjusted retail sales index we see large rises in December each year and a fall in the following January, but these are not evident in the seasonally adjusted index. This peak in December is larger than the subsequent fall but the trend and irregular components in both months are likely to be similar, meaning that the movements in the unadjusted series are almost completely as a result of the seasonal pattern.

    Calendar effects

    The calculation of the RSI has an adjustment to compensate for calendar effects that arise from the differences in the reporting periods. The reporting period for November 2012 was 28 October 2012 to 24 November 2012, compared with 30 October 2011 to 26 November 2011 the previous year. Table 6 shows the differences between the calendar and seasonally adjusted estimates.

    Table 6: Retail Sales and Calendar Effects

    Year on year percentage change
      Value Volume
    Calendar adjusted 1.8 1.3
    Seasonally adjusted 1.5 0.9

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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 41.3%, predominantly non-food stores 41.6%, non-store retailing 5.3% and automotive fuel 11.8%.

    Standard errors

    The standard error of an index movement is a measure of the spread of possible estimates of that movement likely to be obtained when taking a range of different samples of retail companies of the same size. This provides a means of assessing the accuracy of the estimate: the lower the standard error, the more confident one can be that the estimate is close to the true value for the retail population. An approximate 95% confidence interval for the index movement is roughly twice the standard error. The paper ‘ Measuring the accuracy of the Retail Sales Index (1.04 Mb Pdf) ’, written by Winton, J and Ralph, J (2011) reports on the calculation of standard errors for month-on-month and year-on-year growth rates in the RSI as well as providing an overview of standard errors and how they can be interpreted.

    • The standard error for year-on-year growth in all retail sales volumes is 0.7%. This means that the year-on-year growth rate for all retail sales volumes falls within the range 0.6 ± 1.4% with a probability of 95%.

    • The standard error for month-on-month growth in all retail sales volumes is 0.4%. This means that the month-on-month growth rate for all retail sales volumes falls within the confidence interval -0.8 ± 0.8% with a probability of 95%.

    Summary quality report

    Summary Quality Report for the RSI (114 Kb Pdf)

    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.

    A spreadsheet giving these estimates and the calculations behind the averages in the table is available on the ONS website.

    Table 7: All Retailing, Volume Seasonally-Adjusted, Revisions Triangle Summary Statistics, November 2012

    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 with previous three months 0.0 -0.23 0.36
    Latest month compared with previous month 0.0 -0.10 0.44

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  6. Relevant links

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

  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 (38.5 Kb Pdf) to the contents of this bulletin.

  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 are available.

    Alternatively, for low-cost tailored data call 0845 601 3034 or email info@ons.gov.uk

  9. Copyright and reproduction

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    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
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