Retail sales, Great Britain: April 2019

A first estimate of retail sales in volume and value terms, seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted.

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This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Rhian Murphy

Release date:
24 May 2019

Next release:
20 June 2019

1. Main points

  • In the three months to April 2019, the quantity of goods bought (volume) in retail sales increased by 1.8% when compared with the previous three months, with strong growth in non-store retailing, which reached a record high of 9.4%.

  • Online retailers selling clothing items were the driver to this growth, with the warm weather helping to boost sales.

  • When compared with the previous year, the quantity bought in April 2019 increased by 5.2%, with growth across all sectors except household goods, which fell by 4.5%.

  • The quantity bought was flat (0.0%) in April 2019 when compared with the previous month, with growths in clothing, non-store retailing and fuel offset by falls in all other main sectors.

  • In April 2019, online retailing accounted for 18.7% of total retailing compared with 17.7% in April 2018, with an overall growth of 10.1% when compared with the same month a year earlier.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

This bulletin presents estimates of the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in the retail industry for the four-week period 31 March 2019 to 27 April 2019.

The reporting period includes Good Friday (19 April) and Easter Monday (22 April). The previous year’s reporting period for April 2018 was 1 April to 28 April with Easter Monday on 1 April 2018. Seasonal adjustment accounts for this earlier shift in Easter spending.

Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

Retail Sales collects turnover data from retailers, which is money through the till before any deductions, including refunded items. This provides us with the best indicator for consumer spending during the reference period.

The Retail Sales Index (RSI) measures the value and volume of retail sales in Great Britain on a monthly basis. Data are collected from businesses in the retail industry and the survey’s results are used to produce seasonally adjusted monthly, quarterly and annual estimates of output in the retail industry at current price and at chained volume measures (removing the effect of price changes).

The RSI is an important economic indicator and one of the earliest short-term measures of economic activity. It is used in the compilation of the national accounts and widely used by private and public sector institutions, particularly by the Bank of England and Her Majesty’s Treasury to assist in informed decision- and policy-making.

Summary information can be found in the RSI Quality and Methodology Information report.

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3. Main figures for total retail sales

In the three months to April 2019, the amount spent increased by 1.7%, while the quantity of goods bought increased by 1.8% when compared with the previous three months (Table 1).

Both the amount spent and quantity bought in the retail industry showed growth of 5.5% and 5.2% respectively in April 2019 when compared with a year earlier.

In contrast, the quantity bought was flat on the month and as the only measure to show a decline, the monthly growth rate fell by 0.3% in the amount spent.

The general long-term trend is one of growth, which is seen in the year-on-year growth rate in Table 1. The three-month on three-month growth rate shows that in recent months sales have continued to grow for both amount spent and quantity bought from January 2019 to April 2019 (Figure 1).

From April 2014, the trend in the amount spent remained relatively flat as the quantity bought increased at a faster rate up to January 2016. Sales began to increase at a stronger rate of growth from January 2016 for both the amount spent and quantity bought.

From January 2017, the amount spent continued to increase at a steady rate, while the quantity of goods bought slowed to increase at a slower pace. From September 2018, growths for both measures slowed in the three months to December 2018. In contrast, from January 2019 to April 2019 the three-month on three-month index has shown strong growth.

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4. Three-month-on-three-month growth by sector

All sectors except department stores and household goods stores showed growth in the three months to April 2019 across both measures. Department stores continued the recent trend of declining growth, with anecdotal evidence from contributors mentioning store closures as a factor during this period.

Non-store retailing was the largest contributor to this growth, with the quantity bought at 9.4% and the amount spent at 8.9% (Table 2). These are both the highest since records began (June 1988). Anecdotal evidence from a range of non-store retailers supported that they had a range of promotions and sales.

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5. A closer look at sales in non-store retailing

Non-store retailing continues to show strong growth in April 2019 with the highest three-month-on-three-month growth rate since records began, at 9.4% for the quantity bought.

Online only retailers make up the majority of sales within non-store. Figure 2 provides a breakdown of the main commodities sold online from 12 large retailers, which make up nearly 50% of the turnover in non-store retailing.

In April 2019, clothing was the only positive contributor to the growth in non-store retailing, with a growth rate of 5.8% when compared with the previous three months.

Anecdotal evidence from retailers suggested warm weather experienced in April 2019 boosted clothing sales.

In contrast, household goods and other goods both fell by 1.3% when compared with the previous three months while food sales fell by 0.5% in the three months to April.

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6. Month-on-month contributions to growth by sector

Figure 3 displays the contribution by sector to month-on-month growth, with the amount spent at negative 0.3 percentage points and the quantity bought remaining flat.

Non-food stores were the largest negative contributor on the month, with the amount spent and quantity bought contributing negative 0.4 and negative 0.2 percentage points respectively.

In contrast, fuel was the largest positive contributor in April 2019 for the amount spent and quantity bought, at 0.3 and 0.2 percentage points respectively.

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7. Year-on-year contributions to growth by sector

In April 2019, all four main sectors contributed positively to both the amount spent and quantity bought, resulting in year-on-year contributions of 5.5 and 5.2 percentage points respectively (Figure 4).

Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the growth, with the amount spent at 2.0 percentage points and the quantity bought at 2.1 percentage points.

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8. What’s the story in online sales?

Table 3 shows the month-on-month and year-on-year growth rates for online retailing, by sector, in addition to the proportion of online sales to all retail sales. The percentage weights indicate where money is spent online.

Online sales increased by 10.1% for the amount spent in April 2019 when compared with April 2018, with all sectors reporting growths.

In contrast, online sales fell by 2.6% for the amount spent when compared with March 2019. Non-store retailing was the only negative contributor to this fall following strong sales in the previous month. All other sectors reported growths on the month.

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10. Quality and methodology

Our Monthly Business Survey (MBS) for retail sales measures output from the retail industry in Great Britain. It samples 5,000 businesses, with all businesses employing over 100 people or with an annual turnover of more than £60 million receiving an online questionnaire every month.

Further qualitative data or information and summary tables can be found in the attached datasets. This includes data on:

  • response rates

  • standard errors

  • revision triangle

  • distribution analysis

The Retail sales Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • uses and users of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Rhian Murphy
retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455602