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Statistical bulletin: Retail Sales, December 2011 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 20 January 2012 Download PDF

Retail Sales, December 2011

  • Value of retail sales in December 2011 showed an increase of 6.2 per cent compared with December 2010.
  • Sales volumes in December 2011 increased by 2.6 per cent compared to December 2010.
  • Sales volumes were driven by predominantly automotive fuel and textile, clothing and footwear stores increasing 11.2 per cent and 6.3 per cent respectively from December 2010, which was impacted on by harsh winter weather.
  • Offsetting the growth in sales volumes were household goods stores and other stores which decreased 3.6 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.
  • The year on year implied price deflator continued to slow in December 2011 to 2.4 per cent from its peak at 5.2 per cent in August 2011.

Key figures

All retailing, December 2011 (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      6.2 5.4 0.8 1.7
Volume     2.6 1.4 0.6 1.1
Value excluding automotive fuel 4.3 3.8 0.8 1.3
Volume excluding automotive fuel   1.7 0.9 0.6 0.9

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A podcast video is available on the ONS YouTube Channel.

Supplementary Analysis

In December 2011, compared to December 2010 all retail sales volumes increased by 2.6 per cent; and prices in store were estimated to have increased by 2.4 per cent (down on the 3.6 per cent estimated year on year price in November).

Compared to November 2011, retail sales volumes in December 2011 increased by 0.6 per cent.

Looking at the monthly all retail sales value and volume index numbers for the December trading periods in the years 2006 to 2011 (see graph below), the volume series was relatively flat with the value series increasing from 2009; this was partly attributed to the estimated price increases.

Retail Sales Value and Volume Index Numbers for the December Trading Period from 2006 to 2011

All retailing, index level in the month of December, seasonally adjusted

All retailing, index level in the month of December, seasonally adjusted

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December sales

Concentrating on actual pounds data that is the amount spent in the retail sector, the proportion of annual retail spending that takes place in each month can be calculated. The table below shows how these proportions changed through 2011.

Proportion of all retail sales per month in 2011

  Monthly all retail spending (£ billion)1 Average weekly all retail spending (£ billion) Proportion of annual total spend (%)
Jan 23.6 5.9 7.5
Feb 23.9 6.0 7.6
Mar 30.7 6.2 7.8
Apr 26.1 6.5 8.2
May 25.6 6.4 8.1
Jun 32.1 6.4 8.1
Jul 26.0 6.5 8.3
Aug 25.3 6.3 8.0
Sep 32.0 6.4 8.1
Oct 26.8 6.7 8.5
Nov 29.0 7.2 9.2
Dec 42.1 8.4 10.7
Total 343.2  :  :

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. The standard trading period for reatil sales statistics follows a 4-4-5 week pattern.

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In December 2011, the proportion of annual retail spending in both the food and non-food sectors were higher than at any other time of the year. However, the proportion of annual retail spending in the non-food sector was higher than the food sector, 9.9 per cent and 12.1 per cent respectively. 

When you look at the monthly proportions of food sector retail spending across the months of 2011, you see that in comparison to January 2011, which saw the lowest proportion of retail spending in the food sector (7.5 per cent), December food sector retail spending (9.9 per cent) was one third higher than January.

Looking then across the monthly proportions of non-food sector, you see that in comparison to February, which saw the lowest proportion of annual retail spending in the non-food sector, December non-food sector retail spending (12.1 per cent) was two thirds higher than February (7.2 per cent).

The monthly proportions of retail spending in the automotive fuel sector are almost evenly distributed across all months throughout 2011, centred around 8 per cent. 

During 2011, the non-store retailing sector had the highest proportion of retail spending accounting for 11.4 per cent.  In December this falls to 11.2 per cent. This November peak can also be found in the Internet retail sales statistics which covers internet sales by all retailers and show that in November the proportion of sales made via the internet was 11.5 per cent and in December was 10.9 per cent.  It must be noted that retail spending in the non-store sector and over the internet is recorded in the month that the transaction takes place.

Value non-seasonally adjusted

Value non-seasonally adjusted

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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 2.6  : 6.2  :
             
Predominantly food stores 41.7 1.2 0.5 5.8 2.4
             
Predominantly non-food stores          
Total   43.2 1.1 0.5 2.1 1.0
Non-specialised stores 7.8 3.4 0.3 2.9 0.3
Textile, clothing and footwear stores 12.2 6.3 0.8 8.2 1.0
Household goods stores 9.7 -3.6 -0.3 -0.9 -0.1
Other stores 13.5 -1.9 -0.3 -1.8 -0.2
             
Non-store retailing 4.9 10.1 0.5 9.7 0.5
             
Automotive fuel   10.2 11.2 1.1 22.5 2.3

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Amount spent in retail

In December 2011 an estimated £42.1 billion was spent in the retail sector, compared to £29.0 billion in November 2011 and £39.0 billion in December 2010.

An estimated £343.2 billion was spent in 2011 up from £326.2 billion in 2010.

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 December 2011 the non-seasonally adjusted value of Internet retail sales was estimated at £837.1 million which was approximately 10.9 per cent of all retail sales (excluding automotive fuel),compared with December 2010 which was £652.0 million which was approximately 9.1 per cent of retail sales (excluding automotive fuel).

Sector Analysis

Predominantly food stores volume sales in December 2011 increased by 1.2 per cent compared to December 2010. Sales values increased 5.8 per cent over the same period. The faster growth of sales values is because the implied price deflator indicates that average prices increased by an average 4.2 per cent over the year. This is the lowest growth rate since October 2010 when average prices increased by 4.0 per cent.

In December 2011 an estimated £16.1 billion was spent in this sector.

Predominantly food stores, seasonally adjusted

Predominantly food stores, seasonally adjusted

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Predominantly non-food stores sales volume in December 2011 increased by 1.1 per cent compared to December 2010. The increase was driven by textile, clothing and footwear stores and non-specialised stores increasing 6.3 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively from the previous year. Offsetting these sectors were decreases in household goods stores and other stores of 3.6 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.

Sales values increased 2.1 per cent in the year from December 2010 driven by textile, clothing and footwear stores increasing 8.2 per cent and non-specialised stores increasing 2.9 per cent over the period. Offsetting these sectors were decreases in other stores and household goods stores of 1.8 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.

Average prices are estimated to have risen 0.3 per cent in the year to December 2011, down from 1.3 per cent in November 2011. The decrease was due to lower prices in each sector of predominantly non-food stores. Non-specialised stores and household goods stores switched to price deflation from inflation in November 2011. Also, price inflation slowed for textile, clothing and footwear stores and other stores from the previous period.

In December 2011 an estimated £19.9 billion was spent in this sector. 

Predominantly non-food stores, seasonally adjusted

Predominantly non-food stores, seasonally adjusted

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Non-specialised stores sales volume increased 3.4 per cent and sales values increased 2.9 per cent over the year to December 2011. Average prices were estimated to have switched to price deflation of 0.6 per cent in December 2011 from price inflation of 0.3 per cent in November 2011.

In December 2011 an estimated £4.3 billion was spent in this sector. 

Textile, clothing and footwear stores sales volume increased 6.3 per cent when compared to December 2010 the highest increase since August 2010, 7.2 per cent. Sales values increased 8.2 per cent when compared to December 2010 the highest since November 2010, 8.4 per cent. Average price inflation slowed to 2.0 per cent from 2.9 per cent in the previous period.

In December 2011 an estimated £6.1 billion was spent in this sector.

Household goods stores sales volume decreased 3.6 per cent from December 2010. Sales values decreased 0.9 per cent over the same period. Average prices switched to deflation of 1.2 per cent from price inflation in November 2011 of 0.1 per cent.

In December 2011 an estimated £3.4 billion was spent in this sector. 

Other stores sales volumes decreased 1.9 per cent from December 2010 while sales values decreased 1.8 per cent over the same period. Average price inflation slowed to 0.2 per cent in December 2011 down from 1.1 per cent in November 2011.

In December 2011 an estimated £6.1 billion was spent in this sector.

Non-store retailing sales volume increased 10.1 per cent in December 2011 compared to December 2010 and sales values increased 9.7 per cent over the same period  Sales volumes increased more than sales values due to average prices falling 0.6 per cent. The growth in sales values was the slowest since November 2010 when it was 3.1 per cent.

In December 2011 an estimated £2.4 billion was spent in this sector.

Non-store retailing, seasonally adjusted

Non-store retailing, seasonally adjusted

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Predominantly automotive fuel sales volume increased 11.2 per cent from December 2010, the largest increase since 13.6 per cent in December 2006. Sales values increased by 22.5 per cent from December 2010. The harsh winter weather in December 2010 has impacted on the single month growth rates. The average price inflation seen in predominantly automotive fuel slowed in December 2011 to 9.1 per cent from 12.6 per cent in the previous month. Price inflation was last lower in September 2010 when it was 8.3 per cent.

In December 2011 an estimated £3.8 billion was spent in this sector.

Predominantly automotive fuel, seasonally adjusted

Predominantly automotive fuel, seasonally adjusted

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Distribution analysis

The table below 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 6.8 per cent between December 2010 and December 2011.

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 December 2010
100+ 80.4 6.8
40-99 2.0 4.9
10-39 5.4 7.2
0-9 12.2 17.5

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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 December 2010 and December 2011. 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.

RSI Analysis of individual returns from businesses (27 Kb Excel sheet)

Background notes

  1. What’s new?

    New this month

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs;

    • are well explained and readily accessible;

    • are produced according to sound methods, and

    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

  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. 
    More information on the internet retail sales strategy (27.5 Kb Pdf)  can be found on the ONS website.  

    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

      
    Period Turnover Forms
    2011 Dec 87.4 63.8
    Nov 94.5 78.2
    Oct 98.1 80.7
      Sep 97.4 80.6

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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 December 2011 was 27 November 2011 to 31 December 2011 compared with 28 November 2010 to 1 January 2011 the previous year. For example, the annual growth in sales volume between December 2010 and December 2011 requires -2.9 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 5.6 2.5
    Seasonally adjusted 6.2 2.6

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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

    Summary Quality Report for the RSI (93.5 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, December 2011

    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 1.1 -0.21 0.33
    Latest month compared to previous month 0.6 -0.08 0.42

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    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:

    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 (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 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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