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Statistical bulletin: Retail Sales, November 2013 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 19 December 2013 Download PDF

Key Points

  • Year-on-year estimates of the quantity bought in the retail industry continue to show growth. In November 2013, the quantity bought increased by 2.0% compared with November 2012.
  • The underlying pattern in the data as suggested by the three month on three month movement remains flat due to a contraction in the quantity bought in food stores and petrol stations offsetting growth in non-food stores and non-store retailing.
  • On the month, there were mixed performances for the different stores types. Notably, the strong growth in the quantity bought in clothing stores was negated by falls in the quantity bought at department stores and petrol stations leading to subdued growth of 0.3% when comparing November with October 2013.
  • In November 2013, the amount spent in the retail industry increased by 2.7% compared with November 2012 and by 0.2% compared with October 2013. Non-seasonally adjusted data show that the average weekly spend in the retail industry in November 2013 was £7.6 billion compared with £7.3 billion in November 2012.
  • Non-seasonally adjusted data show that the proportion of sales made online increased by 1.4 percentage points to a record 11.9% of all retail sales (excluding automotive fuel). Notably the online spend at department stores was estimated at a record 11.4% reflecting feedback from retailers that suggested that investment in their Internet sites has boosted sales but at the same time detracted from sales in store.
  • Non-seasonally adjusted data also show that small stores experienced more growth year on year than large stores with the amount spent in small stores up 4.5% compared with 2.9% in large stores.

Additional Information

This bulletin presents estimates of the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in the retail industry for the period 27 October to 23 November 2013. Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

Users are reminded that the figures contained within this release are estimates based on a monthly survey of 5,000 retailers, including all large retailers employing 100 people or more. The timeliness of these retail sales estimates, which are published just two weeks after the end of each month, makes them an important early economic indicator. The industry as a whole is used as an indicator of how the wider economy is performing and the strength of consumer spending.

Key Figures

Table 1: All Retailing, November 2013 (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)  2.7 2.8 0.2 0.1
Quantity bought (Volume)   2.0 2.0 0.3 0.0
Value excluding automotive fuel 3.5 3.7 0.3 0.4
Volume excluding automotive fuel   2.3 2.5 0.4 0.3

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At a Glance

In November 2013, the quantity bought in the retail industry (volume) increased by 2.0% compared with November 2012.  The amount spent (value) increased by 2.7%. Since October 2012, non-seasonally adjusted data show that the prices of goods sold in the retail industry (as measured by the implied price deflator) increased by 0.6%. More information on how the implied price deflator is calculated can be found in the background notes.

Economic Context

To enable a comparison of change, figure 1 shows the quantity of goods bought in the retail industry (all retailing sales volumes) and the amount spent (all retailing sales values), as indices referenced to 2010.

Figure 1: All retailing seasonally adjusted sales volumes and values

Figure 1: All retailing seasonally adjusted sales volumes and values

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Both the value and the quantity of retail sales grew steadily, between January 2005 and January 2008. The value of retail sales (including fuel) increased by 11.7%, while the quantity of retail sales grew by 7.8%. The difference was due to increasing prices, as the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) increased by 7.0% over those three years. Average weekly earnings (excluding bonuses) increased by 12.2% - a faster rate than prices – at the same time, implying that real household earnings were increasing.

From January 2008 to November 2013 (the most recent month for which data are available), the value of retail sales continued its upwards trend following a slight decline in 2008, growing by 15.8% overall. Over the same period, the volume of retail sales followed a broadly flat trend and grew by just 2.9%, with the majority of the growth coming in 2013. This reflects the extent to which prices have grown since the onset of the economic downturn, where CPI increased by 20.4%.

Contributions to Growth

The retail industry is divided into four retail sectors:

  • Predominantly food stores (e.g. supermarkets, specialist food stores and sales of alcoholic drinks and tobacco);

  • Predominantly non-food stores (e.g. non-specialised stores, such as department stores, textiles, clothing & footwear, household goods and other stores);

  • Non-store retailing (e.g. mail order, catalogues and market stalls); and

  • Stores selling automotive fuel (petrol stations).

In November 2013, for every pound spent in the retail industry:

  • 42 pence was spent in food stores;

  • 41 pence in non-food stores;

  • 6 pence in non-store retailing; and

  • 11 pence in stores selling automotive 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.

Figures 2 and 3 show the contribution of each sector to the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in retail between November 2012 and November 2013.

Figure 2: Contributions to year-on-year volume growth from the four main retail sectors

Figure 2: Contributions to year-on-year volume growth from the four main retail sectors

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In November 2013, two out of four of the main sectors, non-food stores and non-store retailing, contributed to the increase in the quantity bought.  This was partially offset by a downwards contribution from food stores and petrol stations. 

Figure 3: Contributions to year-on-year value growth from the four main retail sectors

Figure 3: Contributions to year-on-year value growth from the four main retail sectors

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In October 2013, three out of four of the main sectors, non-food stores, food stores and non-store retailing, contributed to the increase in amount spent (value). The largest contribution came from the food sector.

Non-food stores

In November 2013 the quantity bought in non-food stores increased by 2.6% compared with November 2012.  There were mixed performances from the four store types that make up this part of the retail industry:

  • Non-specialised stores or department stores increased by 0.1%;

  • Textile, clothing and footwear stores increased by 6.2%;

  • Household goods stores decreased by 3.2%; and

  • Other stores increased by 4.5%.

Non-specialised stores

While the quantity bought at department stores was almost flat, increasing by 0.1% compared with November 2012, the amount spent decreased by 0.6% reflecting a fall in the prices of goods sold in this sector of 0.7% as measured by the implied price deflator. 

Compared with October 2013 the quantity bought decreased by 3.1%. Non-seasonally adjusted data show an increase by 20.4% but this increase was not as high as seen in previous October to November growth rates as shown in table 2.  Therefore when the data are seasonally adjusted the month-on-month growth rate shows a fall.

Table 2: Month on month growth rates in the quantity bought for a November month

Year Seasonally adjusted Non-seasonally adjusted
2005 1.8 31.9
2006 -0.5 27.1
2007 0.1 25.8
2008 0.7 29.7
2009 0.0 26.5
2010 0.0 24.6
2011 0.1 23.1
2012 2.8 24.1
2013 -3.1 21.5

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However, even though there was a fall in the amount spent and the quantity bought in this sector the proportion of sales made online were at an all time high, with the amount spent online at these stores now accounting for 11.4%.  Reflecting feedback from retailers that suggests that investment into their Internet sites has boosted sales but at the same time detracted from sales in store.

Amount Spent in the Retail Industry

In the November 2013 four week reporting period, the amount spent in the retail industry was £30.2 billion (non-seasonally adjusted).  This compares with £27.8 billion in the four weeks of October 2013 and £29.3 billion in the four weeks of November 2012.

This equates to an average weekly spend of £7.6 billion in November 2013, £6.9 billion in October 2013 and £7.3 billion in November 2012.

Sector Summary

Key Points

  • In the other stores sector computers and telecoms stores provided the largest contribution to year-on-year growth in the quantity bought. 

  • The fall in the quantity bought in household goods stores was dominated by a fall in the quantity bought in electrical appliance stores decreasing by 18.1% compared with November 2012. 

  • The quantity bought in clothing stores increased by 6.4%, while the amount spent increased by 7.6%, both increases are the highest since December 2011.

  • Upwards pressure to average store prices again came from predominantly food stores and clothing stores.  All of the other main store groupings saw average prices fall in comparison with November 2012.   

Table 3: Sector Summary, November 2013

      Percentage change over 12 months   Average weekly sales (£ billion)
Quantity bought (volume)  Amount spent (value)  Average store price 
Predominantly food stores¹ 0.2 2.9 2.7 3.0
Predominantly non-food stores² 2.6 2.7 0.0 3.3
Non-specialised stores³ 0.1 -0.6 -0.7 0.7
Textiles, clothing & footwear stores 6.4 7.6 1.2 1.0
Household goods stores -3.2 -3.0 -0.1 0.6
Other stores 4.5 3.9 -0.9 1.0
Non-store retailing 14.0 13.7 -0.2 0.6
Fuel stores -1.1 -4.0 -3.0 0.7
Total   2.0 2.7 0.6 7.6

Table notes:

  1. Supermarkets, specialist food stores, and sales of alcoholic drinks and tobacco.
  2. Non-specialised stores, textiles, clothing and footwear, Household goods, and other stores
  3. Department stores

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Internet Sales in Detail

Internet sales are estimates of how much was spent online through retailers across all store types in Great Britain. Figures are non-seasonally adjusted and the reference year is 2010=100.

Key Points

  • Average weekly spending online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in November 2013 was £809.9 million. This was an increase of 15.1% compared with November 2012.

  • The amount spent online accounted for a record 11.9% of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel. 

  • The online spend at department stores was estimated at a record 11.4% reflecting feedback from retailers that suggested that investment in their Internet sites has boosted sales but at the same time detracted from sales in store.

Table 4 shows the year-on-year growth rates for total Internet sales by sector and the proportion of sales made on line for each sector.

Table 4: Summary of Internet Statistics for November 2013

Category Year on year growth % (Value NSA) Proportion of total sales  made online
All retailing 15.1 11.9
All food 11.7 3.6
All non-food 15.9 9.3
  Department stores 31.3 11.4
  Textile, clothing and footwear stores 28.9 11.1
  Household goods stores -14.6 5.6
  Other stores 6.1 8.4
Non-store retailing 15.4 69.7

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Distribution Analysis

Table 5 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 2.9% between November 2012 and November 2013. In contrast smaller retailers employing 10 to 39 employees reported an average increase in sales of 6.6%.

Table 5: Changes in reported retail sales values between November 2012 and November 2013

Number of employees Weights (%) Growth since November 2012 (%)
100+ 79.5 2.9
40-99 2.1 7.9
10-39 6.3 6.6
0-9 12.1 0.6

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Analysis of individual returns from businesses

The reference table, Business Analysis (18.5 Kb Excel sheet) , shows the extent to which individual businesses reported actual changes in their sales between November 2012 and November 2013. The table contains information only from businesses that reported in November 2012 and November 2013. 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 next month seasonally adjusted estimates of the value of Internet Sales will be published.  This will provide the user with seasonally adjusted year-on-year growth rates along with estimates of the month-on-month growth rates.  These statistics will be published in a new set of reference tables which will contain all Internet sales statistics available.

  2. What’s New

    Not applicable.

  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 the 900 largest retailers and a representative panel of smaller businesses. Collectively all of these businesses cover approximately 90% of the retail industry in terms of turnover.

    • The RSI covers sales only from businesses classified as retailers according to the Standard Industrial Classification 2007 (SIC 2007), an internationally consistent classification of industries. The retail industry 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 industry 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 2010) 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 CPI components 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 dividing the non-seasonally adjusted value and volume data to leave a price relative. In general, this implied price deflator should be quite close to the retail component of the CPI. More information on the implied price deflator can be found in the Quick Guide to Retail Sales (116.9 Kb Pdf) .

    Use of the data

    The value and volume measures of retail sales estimates are widely used in private and public sector organisations both domestically and internationally. For example, private sector institutions such as investment banks, the retail industry itself and retail groups use the data to inform decisions on the current economic performance of the retail industry. 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 industry, which is taken from the month-on-month growth rates.
     

  4. Methods

    Information on retail sales methodology is available in Retail Sales Methodology and Articles.

    1. 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 6: Overall Response Rates

    Period Overall response rates (%)
    Turnover Questionnaire
    2013 Nov 93.3 64.4
    Oct  98.6 77.7
    Sep 98.8 80.6
      Aug 99.1 80.6

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    2. Seasonal adjustment

    Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (for example Easter moving between March and May) 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 estimate the amount of money taken through the tills of retailers; these are non-seasonally adjusted data. These data consist 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 RSI 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.

    3.  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 2013 was 27 October 2013 to 23 November 2013, compared with 28 October to 24 November the previous year. Table 7 shows the differences between the calendar and seasonally adjusted estimates.

    Table 7: Retail Sales, Calendar Effects

    Year on year percentage change
    Value Volume
    Calendar adjusted 2.5 1.9
    Seasonally adjusted 2.7 2.0

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  5. Quality

    1. 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 41.5%, predominantly non-food stores 41.3%, non-store retailing 5.7% and automotive fuel 11.5%.

    2. Standard errors

    Standard errors of non-seasonally adjusted chained volume index movements have been developed for RSI to determine the spread of possible movements and a means of assessing the accuracy of the non-seasonally adjusted month-on-month and year-on-year estimates of all retail sales volumes.  The lower the standard error, the more confident one can be that the estimate is close to the true value for the retail population.

    • The standard error for year-on-year growth in all retail sales (non-seasonally adjusted) volumes is 0.9%. This means that the year-on-year growth rate for all retail sales volumes (non-seasonally adjusted) falls within the range 2.6  ± 1.8 percentage points with a probability of 95%.

    • The standard error for month-on-month growth in all retail sales (non-seasonally adjusted) volumes is 0.5%. This means that the month-on-month growth rate for all retail sales volumes (non-seasonally adjusted) falls within the range 9.3 ± 1.0 percentage points with a probability of 95%.

    The paper ‘ Measuring the accuracy of the Retail Sales Index’ (1.04 Mb Pdf) , written by Winton, J and Ralph, J (2011) and 'Updated accuracy measures for the Retail Sales Index' (29.6 Kb Pdf) Sanderson, R (2013) 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.

    3. Summary quality report

    A Summary Quality Report (245.6 Kb Pdf) for the RSI.

    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.

    4. Revisions 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 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.

    Table 8: All Retailing, Volume Seasonally Adjusted, Revisions Triangles Summary Statistics, November 2013

    Volume Seasonally Adjusted

    Revisions between first publication and estimates twelve months later (percentage points)
    Growth in latest period (per cent) 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 -0.27 0.36
    Latest month compared with previous month   0.3 -0.13 0.40

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

     

  6. 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.

    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.gsi.gov.uk

    Next publication: Friday 17 January 2014
    Issued by: Office for National Statistics, Government Buildings, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG

    Media contact:
    Tel Media Relations Office 0845 6041858
    Emergency on-call 07867 906553
    Email  media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    Statistical contact:
    Tel Kate Davies 01633 455602
    Email retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gsi,gov.uk

    Contact us:
    Tel 0845 601 3034
    Email info@ons.gsi.gov.uk
    Website www.ons.gov.uk
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  7. 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 4556002 ONS 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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