Retail sales, Great Britain: July 2019

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

This is not the latest release. View latest release

Email Rhian Murphy

Release date:
15 August 2019

Next release:
19 September 2019

1. Main points

  • In the three months to July 2019, the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 0.5% when compared with the previous three months, with food stores and fuel stores seeing a decline.

  • The quantity bought in July 2019 increased by 0.2% when compared with the previous month, with strong growth of 6.9% in non-store retailing.

  • Department stores’ growth increased for the first time this year with a month-on-month growth of 1.6%; this was following six consecutive months of decline.

  • Year-on-year growth in the quantity bought increased by 3.3% in July 2019, with food stores being the only main sector reporting a fall at negative 0.5%.

  • In July 2019, online retailing accounted for 19.9% of total retailing compared with 18.9% in June 2019, with an overall growth of 12.7% when compared with the same month a year earlier.  

Back to table of contents

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 30 June 2019 to 27 July 2019.

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.

Back to table of contents

3. Main figures for total retail sales

In July 2019, estimates for both the amount spent (value) and quantity bought (volume) in retail sales showed growth across all measures (Table 1).

Both the amount spent and the quantity bought in the retail industry reported strong growth of 3.9% and 3.3% respectively when compared with a year earlier.

The monthly picture was more subdued with slight growth of 0.2% for both the amount spent and the quantity bought.

Figure 1 shows a longer-term picture for both value and volume measures.

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 the amount spent and the quantity bought, from September 2018 to July 2019 (Figure 1).

From July 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 increased at a slower pace. The consecutive hot summer months from May to August 2018 resulted in strong growth for these months (at 2.1% in the quantity bought in the three months to August 2018), before returning to slower growth for both measures from September to December 2018. We see a slight pick-up again in March, April and May 2019 and return again to slower growth in later months, at 0.5% in the quantity bought in the three months to July 2019.

Back to table of contents

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

The contribution to year-on-year growth to July 2019, for both the amount spent at 3.9 percentage points and the quantity bought at 3.3 percentage points, can be seen in Figure 2.

Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the year-on-year growth, with the amount spent and quantity bought at 2.1 and 2.2 percentage points respectively.

In contrast, the only sector to contribute negatively to the quantity bought was food stores at negative 0.2 percentage points. This is compared with strong growth in July 2018, which has not been higher since October 2016.

Back to table of contents

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

Figure 3 displays the contribution by sector to month-on-month growth to July 2019, with the amount spent and quantity bought both at 0.2 percentage points.

Non-store retailing was the largest positive contributor on the month, with the amount spent and quantity bought contributing 0.6 and 0.7 percentage points respectively.

In contrast, non-food stores were the largest negative contributor in July 2019, with the amount spent and quantity bought both at negative 0.6 percentage points.

Back to table of contents

6. Growth in retail sales by sector

Table 2 displays the year-on-year and month-on-month growths in each sector for the quantity bought in July 2019.

Non-store retailing has a weight of 10.3% to total retail and, with strong year-on-year and month-on-month growth rates, has contributed the most to the overall growth in July 2019. The month-on-month growth of 6.9% is the largest growth since 9.2% in May 2016. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there were a range of promotions in July 2019 from non-store retailers, which boosted sales.

In contrast, despite its large weight of 38.5%, food stores reported a fall on the year at negative 0.5%, the biggest decline since March 2018. This is compared with a strong growth of 3.6% in July 2018. Food stores were also flat on the month after a small growth of 0.1% reported in June 2019.

Department stores bounced back this month with a month-on-month growth of 1.6% after six consecutive months of decline (Figure 4).

As shown in Figure 4, this is the first growth reported in department stores this year at 1.6% in July 2019. Department stores have been declining for six consecutive months from January 2019, partly because of store closures but July’s growth bucks this trend. Department store retailers have suggested that new clothes lines in addition to extra promotions have helped with sales for this month. However, monthly estimates can be more volatile.

Non-store retailing, on the other hand, has seen a sustained period of strong growth this year (Figure 5).

Back to table of contents

7. 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.

Internet sales increased by 12.7% for the amount spent in July 2019 when compared with July 2018, with all sectors reporting growths except department stores. The decline of 1.3% for department stores was compared with strong growth of 34.4% in the previous year.

The month-on-month movement also showed a strong growth of 5.4%, with non-store retailing reporting the strongest growth of 9.5%. Promotional offers online helped to boost sales for non-store retailers according to feedback from this sector.

The month-on-month growth of 0.5% for all non-food stores came from strong growth in “other stores” as all other non-food sectors saw a decline.

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing increased to 19.9% in July 2019, from the 18.9% reported in June 2019.

Back to table of contents

9. 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

Back to table of contents

Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Rhian Murphy
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455602