Retail sales volumes are estimated to have increased by 0.5% in January 2023, following a fall of 1.2% in December 2022 (revised from a fall of 1.0%); sales volumes were 1.4% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.
Sales volumes fell by 0.9% in the three months to January 2023 when compared with the previous three months; compared with the same period a year earlier, retail sales volumes fell by 5.7% in the three months to January 2023.
Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes rose by 2.0% in January 2023, with some feedback that January sales promotions supported the rise.
Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 1.7% in January 2023, following a rise of 0.3% in December 2022 as fuel prices continued to fall.
Non-food stores sales volumes rose by 0.6% over the month, following a fall of 2.5% in December 2022 with feedback from retailers that growth was supported by sales promotions; despite this pickup, sales volumes were 2.9% below their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.5% in January 2023 following a fall of 0.7% in December 2022; we continue to receive feedback that customers were buying less because of increased cost of living and food prices.
The proportion of retail sales online fell to 25.0% in January 2023 from 25.7% in December 2022; despite this fall, it remains significantly above pre-coronavirus levels (19.8% in February 2020).
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Download this table Table 1: Main retail figures, volume and value sales.xls .csv
Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in January 2023, with both value and volume growth rates.
The reporting period for this bulletin covers 1 January to 28 January 2023.
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. Both show a broad downward trend since summer 2021 following the lifting of hospitality restrictions.
More about economy, business and jobs
Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector
Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 0.5% month-on-month rise in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in January 2023. This highlights that the rise in non-store retailing sales volume was the largest contributor to the growth.
Automotive fuel and non-food store sales both contributed 0.2 percentage points to the change over the month, while food stores sales continued to fall.Back to table of contents
Non-store retailing sales volumes have generally seen a downward trend since early 2021, as the wider economy re-opened and people could return to shopping in stores. However, between December 2022 and January 2023, non-store sales volumes rose by 2.0%, largely because of online retailers who attributed the rise to promotional sales.
Automotive fuel sales volumes rose 1.7% in January 2023 following an increase of 0.3% in December 2022. This growth comes as our Consumer price inflation, UK: January 2023 bulletin reported that average fuel prices fell to their lowest level since February 2022. Our Public opinion and social trends, Great Britain: 25 January to 5 February 2023 bulletin reported an overall decrease in those cutting back on non-essential journeys since December 2022, which may be explained by eases in motor fuel inflation.
Total non-food stores sales volumes (total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) rose by 0.6% over the month, following a fall of 2.5% in December 2022. Anecdotal evidence across several sub-sectors noted that growth was boosted by January 2023 sales promotions after a relatively poor December. Despite this pickup, sales volumes were 2.9% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.
Within non-food stores, the sub-sector of other non-food stores reported a monthly rise in sales volumes of 3.6%; driven by strong growth in cosmetics stores, carpets and furnishing stores, and watches and jewellery stores.
Department stores sales volumes rose by 0.8% in January 2023, from a fall of 3.1% in December 2022. Some retailers reported sales starting as early as Christmas Eve and running until the end of January 2023.
Household goods stores sales volumes grew by 0.8% in January 2023, while clothing stores sales volumes fell by 2.9% in January 2023, following four months of positive growth.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.5% in January 2023 following a fall of 0.7% in December 2022, with continued feedback of a decline in volumes sold (quantity bought) because of the increased cost of living and food prices.
The Bank of England Agents’ summary of business conditions 2022 Q4 reported supermarkets’ feedback of customers trading down to lower-priced products. Some supermarkets reported sales are being supported by people spending less on dining out.Back to table of contents
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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 show 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 by 2.1% in January 2023, because of monthly falls across all industries except non-store retailing and clothing stores.
The proportion of online sales fell to 25.0% in January 2023 from 25.7% in December 2022. Despite this fall, the proportion of retail sales taking place online remains above the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.8% in February 2020).Back to table of contents
Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 17 February 2023
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 17 February 2023
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 17 February 2023
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 effect of price changes.
Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (for example, Easter moving between March and April) and seasonal effects (such as increased spending in December 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
More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in our Retail Sales Index Quality and Methodology Information (QMI).
Revisions in this release are a result of:
revisions to seasonal adjustment factors, which have been reviewed and re-estimated
late responses to survey returns replacing imputations, or revisions to original returns
Revisions are allowed to occur naturally each month, along the full length of each data time series, following direct seasonal adjustment of the component time series.
For further information on the revisions profile, please see our Retail sales revisions triangles dataset, published on a one-month growth basis, and our Retail sales revisions triangles dataset, published on a three-month growth basis.
Compliance check on retail sales statistics
On 11 February 2022, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) published a letter 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 published a Retail sales statistics developments update, Great Britain: 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 creation 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 policymaking.
Comparability with international data
The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for January 2023 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 15 February 2023. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, January 2023 report, 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 Index release for Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2022 was published on 15 December 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, 504KB) across the EU on 6 February 2023 for December 2022. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and the European Union (EU27), when compared with November 2022.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 1633 455602