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

Released: 22 March 2012 Download PDF

Retail Sales - February 2012

  • The value of retail sales in February 2012 increased by 3.2 per cent compared with February 2011.
  • Sales volumes in February 2012 increased by 1.0 per cent compared with February 2011.
  • Sales volumes were driven by non-store retailing, predominantly food stores and non-specialised stores.
  • The year on year implied price deflator in February 2012 rose to 2.4 per cent from 2.2 per cent in January 2012.
  • The proportion of retail sales made via the Internet is estimated to have been 10.7 per cent of all retail sales excluding fuel in February 2012.

Key Figures

All retailing, February 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    3.2 4.5 -0.4 1.0
Volume   1.0 1.7 -0.8 0.7
Value excluding automotive fuel 2.8 3.4 -0.5 0.7
Volume excluding automotive fuel 1.0 1.2 -0.8 0.6

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A podcast video is available on the ONS YouTube Channel.

Supplementary Analysis

In February 2012, all retailing sales volumes increased by 1.0 per cent compared with February 2011 and decreased by 0.8 per cent compared with January 2012.

All retail sales values increased by 3.2 per cent compared with February 2011 and decreased by 0.4 per cent compared with January 2012. Between January 2012 and February 2012 only the predominantly food store sector saw sales values increase. 

Levels

Comparing now the levels of value and volume all retailing we see from chart 1 that while retail sales values have fallen in the latest month the underlying longer term movement within the series is one of growth. We can also see that the volume series falls slightly in the latest period, with the underlying movement being slightly different to that of the value series in that the back series is relatively flat but in recent months the underlying movement has changed to one of growth. 

Chart 1, All retail sales (seasonally adjusted)

Chart showng retail sales values and volumes between November 2009 and February 2012
Source: Monthly Business Survey - Retail Sales Inquiry - Office for National Statistics

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Food stores

Concentrating now on predominantly food stores, in February 2011 sales volumes increased by 1.0 per cent compared with February 2011 and decreased by 0.1 per cent compared with January 2012.

Sales values at predominantly food stores increased by 5.0 per cent compared with February 2012 and by 0.6 per cent compared with January 2012.

Comparing sales volume and value levels by looking at the index numbers as shown in chart 2, we see that sales volumes in predominantly food stores have fallen with increases for events such as the Royal Wedding in April 2011 but sales values have increased at a relatively strong rate.

Chart 2, Sales values and volumes in predominantly food stores (seasonally adjusted)

Chart showing sales values and volumes for predominantly food stores between November 2009 and February 2012
Source: Monthly Business Survey - Retail Sales Inquiry - Office for National Statistics

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The value series could be viewed as how much has been spent on goods within these stores and therefore an increase in value could be down to an increase in prices, an increase in the quantity bought or an increase in both prices and quantities. With sales volumes falling, it can be assumed that the increase in the value series is largely down to an increase in the prices of goods sold within these stores. Store price inflation in predominantly food stores now stands at 3.9 per cent increasing from 3.5 per cent in January 2012.

The predominantly food store sector was the only retailing sector where store price inflation increased and is the main driver behind the increase in store price inflation for all retailing which now stands at 2.4 per cent compared with 2.2 per cent in January 2012.

The Consumer Price Index now stands at 3.4 per cent and with the main upward pressure to this index coming from alcohol sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and off licences and vegetables, store price inflation for predominantly food stores is likely to have been driven by similar products.

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 1.0 3.2
               
Predominantly food stores 41.7 1.0 0.4 5.0 2.1
               
Predominantly non-food stores        
Total     43.2 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.0
Non-specialised stores 7.8 2.9 0.2 2.0 0.2
Textile, clothing and footwear stores 12.2 -0.4 0.0 1.8 0.2
Household goods stores 9.7 -0.1 0.0 -1.3 -0.2
Other stores   13.5 -1.3 -0.2 -1.8 -0.2
               
Non-store retailing   4.9 9.2 0.5 8.6 0.5
               
Automotive fuel     10.2 1.1 0.1 6.2 0.6

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Amount spent in retail

In February 2012 an estimated £24.6 billion was spent in the retail sector, compared to £24.4 billion in January 2012 and £23.9 billion in February 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 February 2012 the non-seasonally adjusted average weekly sales value of Internet retail sales was estimated at £573.6 million which was approximately 10.7 per cent of all retail sales (excluding automotive fuel). In February 2011 non-seasonally adjusted average weekly sales value of Internet retail sales was £432.6 million which was approximately 8.3 per cent of retail sales (excluding automotive fuel).

Sector Analysis

Predominantly food stores sales volumes in February 2012 increased 1.0 per cent when compared with February 2011. Due to average prices rising by 3.9 per cent over the same period the value of sales increased by 5.0 per cent.

In February 2012 an estimated £10.6 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 volumes in February 2012 are unchanged from sales volumes in February 2011 while the value of sales increased by just 0.1 per cent. Average prices are estimated to have risen 0.2 per cent in the year to February 2012, the slowest increase since August 2010 when prices rose 0.1 per cent. The increase in prices was driven by textile, clothing and footwear stores and was the only sector to indicate price increases.

In February 2012 an estimated £9.4 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 volumes increased 2.9 per cent in February 2012 when compared with February 2011. The volume increase was driven by price deflation of 0.8 per cent the largest fall since a fall of 1.1 per cent in August 2009. The value of sales increased 2.0 per cent in the year to February 2012.

In February 2012 an estimated £1.7 billion was spent in this sector.

Textile, clothing and footwear stores sales volumes in February 2012 fell 0.4 per cent due to average price inflation of 2.3 per cent and sales values only increasing 1.8 per cent.

In February 2012 an estimated £2.6 billion was spent in this sector.

Household goods stores sales volumes fell 0.1 per cent in February 2012 compared with February 2011. The value of sales fell 1.3 per cent over the same period, the largest decrease since a fall of 1.8 per cent in September 2011. Average price deflation slowed to 0.8 per cent in February 2012 from 0.9 per cent in January 2012.

In February 2012 an estimated £2.1 billion was spent in this sector.

Other stores sales volumes decreased 1.3 per cent in the year to February 2012. Sales values decreased 1.8 per cent over the same period. Average prices are estimated to have fallen 0.5 per cent in February 2012 compared with February 2011 the fastest fall since September 2009 (-0.6 per cent).

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

Non-store retailing sales volumes increased 9.2 per cent in February 2012 compared with February 2011. Sales values increased 8.6 per cent over the same period the slowest growth since November 2010 (3.2 per cent). Average price deflation is estimated to be 0.7 per cent in the year to February 2012 the fastest fall since November 2009 (-1.4 per cent).

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

Non-store retailing, seasonally adjusted

Non-store retailing, seasonally adjusted

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Predominantly automotive fuel stores sales volumes increased 1.1 per cent in the year to February 2012 the lowest growth since December 2010 (-8.4 per cent). Sales values increased 6.2 per cent in February 2012 compared with February 2011 the lowest growth since December 2011 (2.8 per cent). Average prices are estimated to have increased 5.3 per cent in the year to February 2012 the same as the year to January 2012 and lowest increase since October 2009 (-0.8 per cent).

In February 2012 an estimated £3.1 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 2.5 per cent between February 2011 and February 2012.

Increase in reported retail sales values between February 2011 and February 2012 standard reporting periods (by size and of business)

Number of employment Weights (%) Growth since February 2011 (%)
100+ 78.5 2.5
40-99 2.1 -0.5
10-39 6.3 12.3
0-9 13.1 1.6

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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 February 2011 and February 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 February 2012.

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

Background notes

  1. What’s new?

    On 2 April 2012 ONS will conduct a user engagement seminar. This periodic meeting allows keys users to be briefed on and influence future developments.

    Improvements to be introduced next month

    Detailed industry level seasonally adjusted data will be published for the first time. Tables 9 and 10 will display data at the lower industry level for value and volume measures, allowing users to analyse seasonally adjusted data in greater detail.

    Following continued development of Internet retail sales ONS remove the experimental tag and will publish a value non-seasonally adjusted index for internet sales. This paves the way for the introduction of seasonally adjusted results and sector breakdown in the near future.

  2. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistic s. 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 (195 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 at the Retail Sales Guidance and methodology page.

    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

    Overall response rates
    (per cent)
    Period   Turnover Forms
    2012 Feb 94.2 70.3
    Jan 96.5 79.7
    2011 Dec 96.6 81.0
      Nov 96.8 81.0

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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 February 2012 was 29 January 2012 to 25 February 2012 compared with 30 January 2011 to 26 February 2011 the previous year. For example, the annual growth in sales volume between February 2011 and February 2012 requires 0.3 per cent adjustment to take account of the differences in reporting periods and other calendar effects.

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

    Calendar Effects

    Year on year percentage change
    Value Volume
    Calendar adjusted 3.4 1.0
    Seasonally adjusted 3.2 1.0

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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 Revisions triangles table 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 to download under "data in this release".

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

    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 to previous three months 0.7 -0.22 0.34
    Latest month compared to previous month -0.8 -0.08 0.42

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  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 (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 455617 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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