Retail sales volumes fell by 0.3% in February 2022 following a rise of 1.9% (unrevised) in January 2022; sales volumes were 3.7% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.
Non-store retailing sales volumes fell by 4.8% over the month following strong growth in December (2.7%) and January (4.0%); sales volumes were 33.2% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.2% in February 2022 with large falls in alcohol and tobacco stores, which may be linked to higher spending in pubs and restaurants as confidence increased in going out; food store sales volumes were 0.1% below pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.
Non-food stores sales volumes rose by 0.6% in February 2022 with growth in clothing (13.2%) and department stores (1.3%), with wider socialising and the return to the office following the lifting of Plan B restrictions at the end of January potential factors; these increases were partly offset by falls in other non-food stores (negative 7.0%) and household goods stores (negative 2.5%) with some retailers suggesting the stormy weather during the month had impacted footfall.
Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 3.6% in February 2022 as the lifting of Plan B restrictions in England at the end of January 2022 increased travel; sales volumes were above pre-coronavirus February 2022 levels (0.9%) for the first time.
The proportion of retail sales online fell to 27.8% in February 2022, its lowest proportion since March 2020 (22.7%), continuing a broad downward trend since its peak in February 2021 (37.7%).
month on a
on a year
Download this table Table 1: Volume and value sales.xls .csv
Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in February 2022 with both value and volume growth rates.
Retail sales volumes fell by 0.3% in February 2022, following an unrevised rise of 1.9% in January 2022. Retail sales values, unadjusted for price changes, rose by 0.7% in February 2022, following a rise of 1.7% in January. When compared with February 2020's pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level, total retail sales were 3.7% and 10.2% higher in volume and value terms respectively.
Compared with the same period a year earlier, sales volumes over the last three months rose by 4.4% while sales values rose by 11.7% reflecting an annual implied deflator (or implied growth in prices) of 7.2%. Percentage change over the past year should be interpreted with caution given the impact of coronavirus restrictions and base effects on growth rates. In February 2021 there were restrictions on non-essential retail in England, Scotland, and Wales.
The reporting period for the this publication covers 30 January to 26 February 2022.
Retail sales volumes fell by 0.3% in February 2022 but were 3.7% above their levels in February 2020.
Non-store retailing sales volumes (see Section 6: Glossary) fell by 4.8% over the month. Despite this fall, sales volumes were 33.2% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels. To note, all other retail sectors, not classified as “Non-store retailing”, have a physical presence but may also trade online.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.2% over the month and were 0.1% below their February 2020 levels. Supermarkets reported an increase of 0.3% over the month but that was offset by falls in specialist food stores (such as butchers and bakers) of 2.0% and alcohol and tobacco stores which fell by 16.1%.
Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 3.6% in February 2021 as more people travelled following the lifting of Plan B restrictions in England at the end of January. In February 2022, fuel sales volumes were (0.9%) above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels for the first time.
Non-food stores sales volumes rose by 0.6% with strong growth in clothing stores (13.2%) and department stores (1.3%), which may be linked to wider socialising and the return to the office following the lifting of Plan B restrictions. The sub-sectors other non-food stores and household goods stores fell by 7.0% and 2.5% over the month with feedback from some retailers suggesting the stormy weather between 16 and 21 February had affected footfall.
More about economy, business and jobs
Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector
Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 0.3% month-on-month fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in February 2022. This highlights that non-store retailing had the largest contributions to the fall over the month.Back to table of contents
Non-store retailing sales volume levels rose sharply during the early months of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as many online stores continued to trade when non-essential retailing was closed. The level of sales have remained relatively high over the last couple of years, but as restrictions have loosened, levels have fallen back. In February 2022, sales volumes fell by 4.8% following increases of 4.0% January 2022 and 2.7% in December 2021, when strong on-line sales may have been linked to consumer concerns about the Omicron variant during those months. Despite this fall, sales volumes were 33.2% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.
Some of the fall in February may also be because of affordability concerns. Results from the Opinion and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 16 to 27 February found that of the actions taken because of an increase in the cost of living, 51% of adults reported spending less on non-essentials.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.2% over the month to February 2022 and were 0.1% below their February 2020 levels. The fall over the month was led by a 16.1% fall in sales in alcohol and tobacco stores which may be because of wider spending in pubs and restaurants as confidence returned in going out. Data on UK spending on debit and credit cards based on CHAPS payments made by credit and debit card payment processors, reported a pick up in its "social" spending category (such as restaurants and pubs) between January and February 2022.
Sales volumes have broadly fallen since June 2021 as consumers diverted spending to services as the wider economy reopened. The Bank of England's Agents' summary of business conditions for 2022 Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) noted that contacts in the hospitality, entertainment and leisure sectors reported a rapid pickup in demand in recent weeks as concerns about the Omicron variant dissipated.
Affordability may also explain some of the fall in recent months. Results from OPN covering the period 16 to 27 February found that 81% of adults reported that their cost of living had increased over the last month. This was 12 percentage points higher than the 69% in the period 19 to 20 January 2022 with the most frequent reported reason being rising food shop prices (92%). Of the actions taken because of an increase in the cost of living, 30% reported spending less on food shopping and essentials.
Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 3.6% in February 2022 following an increase of 3.9% in January 2022. Plan B restrictions which included asking people to work from home if they could were lifted in England at the end of January 2022.
The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey covering the period 16 February to 27 February 2022 reported that the percentage of working adults working from home was 15%, continuing a decline since 6 to 16 January 2022 (26%).
This is also supported by the Business insights and impact on the UK economy release where businesses reported that during the period 7 February to 20 February 2022 the majority of their workforce (62%) were estimated to be working from a designated workplace, that is, not from home. This is up from 57% during the period 13 December to 26 December.Back to table of contents
as a proportion
of retail in this
|Online sales: Most|
recent month on a
|Online sales: Most|
recent month on
Download this table Table 2: Summary of internet statistics.xls .csv
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 fell in February 2022 by 0.7% when compared with January 2022, with falls in all sub-sectors apart from clothing stores which increased by 0.7%.
The proportion of online sales fell to 27.8% from 28.1% in January 2022. This is a continuation of a broad falling trend since its peak in February 2021 (37.7%). Despite the ongoing trend, the proportion of sales made online is still above its level of 20.0% in February 2020 before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Note that methods used to estimate online sales have been improved this month, resulting in higher estimates of percentage of retail conducted online, than reported previously. The trend of an ongoing reduction of online sales from a peak in early 2021 is unaltered.Back to table of contents
Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 25 March 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 25 March 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 25 March 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.
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 estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (for example, Easter moving between March and June) and seasonal effects (for example, increased spending in February because of Christmas) from the non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) estimates.
Non-seasonally adjusted estimates refer to raw data where the effects of regular or seasonal patterns have not been removed.
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.Back to table of contents
Transformation of data collection systems
Following our updates in previous months, we have progressed to the stage where from the release this month, we have transferred production of the statistics to our new statistical production platform (SPP). As part of this process, we have also improved our methods such as improvements to the imputation of the mail order industry in internet sales and the adoption of an outlier approach called winsorisation across all variables.
If a company is new to the retail sales inquiry sample but failed to respond, we impute a value for its turnover based on the company's registered turnover on the Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR). However, we previously didn't impute internet sales for these companies as well. This only affected companies which were new to the sample and had never previously responded. Companies who had previously responded were imputed using a ratio imputation method for their total turnover and internet sales which is explained in our quality and methodology information.
Under our new approach, if a company is new to the retail sales inquiry sample but fails to respond we now also impute a value for its internet sales in the mail order industry from the company's registered turnover on the IDBR. This is because most mail order companies' turnover are from internet sales.
The impact of these improvements to our main series is minimal, however, improvements to the imputation of the mail order industry in internet sales has increased the level of internet sales for the processed period (February 2021 to February 2022), which also impacts the proportion of internet sales series. Internet sales as a proportion of all retailing excluding automotive fuel has been mostly revised up, by up to 2.8 percentage points. The trend of an ongoing reduction in the proportion of online sales from a peak in early 2021 is unaltered. The impact of these revisions can be found in the tables published alongside this release.
More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Retail Sales Quality and Methodology Information (QMI).
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
improvements to our methods such as improvements to the imputation of internet sales and adoption of a new outlying approach (winsorisation)
All seasonal-adjustment parameters for our volume and value data, for all businesses and internet-data time series, up to February 2022 have been reviewed. Many series are affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)-related actions in February 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 retails 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 February 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.Back to table of contents
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.
The latest comparisons with month-on-same-month a year ago should be treated with caution given the impact of base effects on growth rates because of the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic throughout 2020. Such comparisons and growth rates can nonetheless be found in our accompanying dataset.
Comparability with international data
The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for February 2022 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 16 March 2022. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, March 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 release 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 (PDF, 515KB) across the EU on 4 March 2022 for January 2022. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU27 when compared with December 2022.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 1633 455602