Retail sales, Great Britain: April 2022

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

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20 May 2022

The title in the fourth row of Table 1 has been corrected from value to volume. The data are unaffected.

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Release date:
20 May 2022

Next release:
24 June 2022

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes rose by 1.4% in April 2022 following a fall of 1.2% in March 2022 (revised from a fall of 1.4%); sales volumes were 4.1% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

  • Looking more broadly, in the three months to April 2022, sales volumes fell by 0.3% when compared with the previous three months; this continues the downward trend since summer 2021.

  • Food store sales volumes rose by 2.8% in April 2022, mostly because of higher spending on alcohol and tobacco in supermarkets; supermarket food sales were broadly unchanged.

  • Non-store retailing sales volumes, which are predominantly sales from online-only retailers, rose by 3.7% in April 2022 led by stronger clothing sales.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 1.4% in April 2022 following a fall of 4.2% in March when record increases in petrol prices impacted sales.

  • Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 0.6% in April 2022 because of falls in other non-food stores (negative 3.3%) and household goods stores (negative 0.5%) such as furniture stores.

  • The proportion of retail sales online rose to 27.0% in April 2022 from 25.9% in March and remains substantially higher than the 19.9% in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic.

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2. Retail sales in April

Retail sales volumes rose by 1.4% in April 2022, following a fall of 1.2% in March 2022 (revised from a fall of 1.4%). Retail sales values, unadjusted for price changes, rose by 1.9% in April 2022, following a rise of 0.6% in March. When compared with February 2020's pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level, total retail sales were 4.1% and 13.2% higher in volume and value terms respectively.

Compared with the same period a year earlier, sales volumes over the last three months rose by 1.0% while sales values rose by 10.0% reflecting an annual implied deflator (or implied growth in prices) of 9.0%. Percentage change over the past year should be interpreted with caution given the impact of coronavirus restrictions and base effects on growth rates.

Figure 1 shows the quantity bought in retail sales over time for both the rolling three-month on three-month and the month-on-month movement. While both series show similar trends, the monthly path shows more volatility than the smoother three-month on three-month series. Three-month on three-month sales volumes fell by 0.3%, continuing a broad downward trend since summer 2021.

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Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector

Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 1.4% month-on-month rise in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in April 2022. This highlights that food stores had the largest contributions to the increase over the month.

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3. Retail sales, selected sectors

Food stores

Food store sales volumes rose by 2.8% in April 2022 following falls in the previous five months. Sales volumes were 0.9% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

Supermarkets reported an increase in sales volumes of 2.9% over the month. A further breakdown of the commodities sold in supermarkets indicated that this increase was led by strong growth in alcohol, confectionery and tobacco sales. Supermarket food sales were broadly unchanged.

Alcohol and tobacco stores also reported an increase in sales volumes of 8.4% over the month, while specialist food stores (such as butchers and bakers) fell by 1.4%.

Non-store retailing 

Sales volumes rose by 3.7% in April 2022, from a fall of 6.9% in March. Sales volumes were 26.7% above their pre-coronavirus March 2020 levels. Commodity breakdown data from online retailers indicated that the increase in April 2022 was because of strong clothing sales.

Non-food stores

Non-food stores as a whole saw monthly sales volumes fall by 0.6% in April 2022 but are 2.4% above their pre-coronavirus levels of February 2020.

The sub-sector of other non-food stores reported a monthly fall in sales volumes of 3.3% in April 2022 because of large falls in second-hand goods stores, particularly antiques stores and auctioning houses.

Household goods stores' sales volumes fell by 0.5% in April 2022 because of falls in furniture and lighting stores (2.4%) and DIY stores (0.8%), which follows increases in these sub-sectors last month.

Department stores and clothing stores both reported a monthly increase of 1.3% in sales volumes. Feedback from some retailers suggested that the pick-up in clothing was because of customers booking events such as weddings and holidays.

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4. Online retail

Table 2 shows the month-on-month and month-on-year (annual) growth rates for the amount spent online by value and the proportion of total retail sales value that was made online by sector. The percentage weights indicate where money is spent online. For example, 7.6 pence in every pound spent online was spent in department stores in 2021.

Online spending values rose in April 2022 by 6.2% when compared with March 2022 because of a strong increase in non-store retailing (11.3%) and clothing stores (3.6%).

The proportion of online sales rose to 27.0% from 25.9% in March 2022. Despite the increase in April 2022, the proportion of online sales has broadly fallen since its peak in February 2021 (37.6%) but is substantially above its level of 19.9% in February 2020 before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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5. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 20 May 2022
A series of retail sales data for Great Britain in value and volume terms, seasonally and non-seasonally adjusted.

Retail sales pounds data
Dataset | Released 20 May April 2022
Total sales and average weekly spending estimates for each retail sector in Great Britain, in the thousands (British pounds).

Retail Sales Index internet sales
Dataset | Released 20 May 2022
Internet sales in Great Britain by store type, month and year.

Retail Sales Index categories and their percentage weights
Dataset | Released 25 March 2022
Retail sales categories and descriptions and their percentage of all retailing in Great Britain.

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6. Glossary

Value (amount spent)

The value estimates reflect the total turnover that businesses have collected over a standard period.

Volume (quantity bought)

The volume estimates are calculated by taking the value estimates and adjusting to remove the impact of price changes.

Seasonally adjusted

Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (for example, Easter moving between April and June) and seasonal effects (for example, increased spending in April because of Christmas) from the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) estimates.

Non-seasonally adjusted

Non-seasonally adjusted estimates refer to raw data where the effects of regular or seasonal patterns have not been removed.

Non-store retailing

Non-store retailing refers to retailers that do not have a store presence. While the majority is made up of online retailers, it also includes other retailers such as stalls and markets.

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7. Measuring the data


More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our Retail Sales Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report.


Revisions in this release are a result of:

  • late responses to survey returns replacing imputations, or revisions to original returns

  • revisions to seasonal-adjustment factors, which are re-estimated and reviewed every month

For further information on the revisions profile, please see the retail sales revisions triangles published on a one-month and three-month growth basis.

Seasonal adjustment

All seasonal-adjustment parameters for our volume and value data, for all businesses and internet-data time series, up to April 2022 have been reviewed. Many series are affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)-related actions in April 2022 and previous months. Each series has been reviewed and the best adjustment for coronavirus-related effects applied. These may need to be revised further as additional data become available.

Use of Value Added Tax data in retail sales statistics

We have previously outlined plans to incorporate Value Added Tax (VAT) data to measure monthly retail sales alongside a rationalised Monthly Business Survey (MBS) as part of our transformation of short-term turnover statistics.

However, at this stage we will not be including VAT data in place of survey data in the production of retail sales statistics. This is because methodological work has confirmed that timeliness of that data, especially during times of shock such as the one seen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, could result in poorer initial estimates and larger subsequent revisions. Work will continue to assess the potential for future incorporation of VAT data in retail sales and our other short-term statistics.

Compliance check on retail sales statistics

On 11 April 2022, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) published a letter of their findings that confirmed the continued designation of retail sales statistics as National Statistics. In its findings the OSR recommended that we publish a further update on our ongoing developments, future priorities for retail sales statistics, and our plans for user engagement. We will provide further detail on these areas before the end of June 2022.

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8. Strengths and limitations

Uses and users

The Retail Sales Index (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 HM Treasury, to assist in informed decision and policy making.

Comparability with international data

The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for April 2022 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 17 May 2022. In their Advanced monthly sales for US retail and food services, April 2022 (PDF, 354KB), they included the amount spent in the United States retail industry, including motor vehicles and parts, and food services.

Data for Northern Ireland are published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Their retail sales release for Northern Ireland for Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2021 was published on 16 March 2022.

It should be noted that accurate comparisons cannot be made against these or other international statistics for a variety of reasons, including differences in methodology.

Eurostat also published their latest estimates of the Volume of retail trade across the EU on 4 May 2022 for March 2022. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU27 when compared with January 2022.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Rhys Lewis
Telephone: +44 1633 455602