Retail sales, Great Britain: August 2022

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

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Contact:
Email Rhys Lewis

Release date:
16 September 2022

Next release:
21 October 2022

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes fell by 1.6% in August 2022, continuing a downward trend since summer 2021 following the lifting of restrictions on hospitality; in recent months, rising prices and cost of living are also affecting sales volumes.

  • All main sectors (food stores, non-food stores, non-store retailing and fuel) fell over the month; this last happened in July 2021, when all legal restrictions on hospitality were lifted.

  • Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 1.9% over the month because of falls in each of its sub-sectors: other non-food stores (negative 2.8%), department stores (negative 2.7%), household goods stores (negative 1.1%) and clothing stores (negative 0.6%).

  • Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes fell by 2.6% in August 2022; despite this fall, sales volumes were 24.4% above their February 2020 levels.

  • Food store sales volumes fell by 0.8% in August 2022, which leaves them 1.4% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) levels in February 2020.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 1.7% in August 2022; these were 9.0% below their February 2020 levels.

  • The proportion of retail sales online fell to 25.7% in August 2022 from 26.3% in July 2022; despite this fall, it remains significantly above pre-coronavirus levels (19.8% in February 2020).

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2. Retail sales in August

Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in August 2022 with both value and volume growth rates.

Retail sales volumes fell by 1.6% in August, following a rise of 0.4% in July 2022 (revised from a rise of 0.3%). Retail sales values, unadjusted for price changes, fell by 1.7% in August 2022, following a rise of 1.4% in July 2022.

When compared with the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level in February 2020, total retail sales were 0.5% and 13.7% higher in volume and value terms, respectively.

Compared with the same period a year earlier, retail sales volumes fell by 5.1% in the three months to August 2022, while sales values rose by 5.6% – reflecting an annual implied deflator (or implied growth in prices) of 10.7%. Percentage change over the past year should be interpreted with caution, given the impact of coronavirus restrictions and base effects on growth rates.

The reporting period for this bulletin covers 31 July to 27 August 2022. This period therefore includes the bank holiday in Scotland on 1 August but not the bank holiday on 29 August in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Figure 1 shows the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in retail sales over time. Sales volumes fell by 1.6% in August 2022, continuing a broad downward trend since summer 2021 following the lifting of hospitality restrictions.

This monthly fall in sales volumes is the joint largest fall in sales volumes (along with December 2021 where sales volumes fell by 1.6% over the month) since July 2021 when all legal restrictions on hospitality were lifted.

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Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector

Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 1.6% month-on-month fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in August 2022.

All the main sectors (food stores, non-food stores, non-store retailing and fuel) fell over the month, which last happened in July 2021 when all legal restrictions on hospitality were lifted.

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3. Retail sales, selected sectors

Non-food stores

Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 1.9% over the month and were 2.0% below their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

Other non-food stores, such as sports equipment and toy stores, reported a monthly fall in sales volumes of 2.8% in August 2022, while department stores fell by 2.7%.

Household goods stores sales volumes fell by 1.1% in August 2022, mainly because of falls in furniture and lighting stores. Feedback from retailers suggests that consumers are cutting back on spending because of increased prices and affordability concerns.

Clothing stores sales volumes fell by 0.6% in August 2022 and were 5.7% below their February 2020 levels.

Non-store retailing

Non-store retailing sales volumes fell by 2.6% in August 2022, following a rise of 4.8% in July 2022 when a range of promotions boosted sales. Sales volumes followed a broad downward trend as the wider economy reopened. Despite this fall, sales volumes are 24.4% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

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.

Food stores

Food store sales volumes fell by 0.8% in August 2022 and were 1.4% below their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

Supermarkets' sales volumes fell by 0.9% over the month, while specialist food stores (such as butchers and bakers) fell by 1.9%. Alcohol and tobacco stores rose by 6.3%.

Food sales volumes have followed a downward trend since summer 2021 following the lifting of restrictions on hospitality.

In recent months, retailers have highlighted that they are seeing a decline in volumes sold because of increased food prices and cost of living impacts.

Automotive fuel

Despite weekly forecourt prices starting to fall, as reported in our Consumer price inflation August 2022 bulletin, automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 1.7% in August 2022, following a rise of 0.3% in July 2022. Sales volumes were 9.0% below their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

Results from our Public opinion and social trends dataset covering the period 17 to 29 August 2022 found that of the 91% of adults who said that their cost of living had increased, 42% were cutting back on non-essential journeys in private vehicles. We will publish our Public opinion and social trends bulletin for 31 August to 11 September 2022 at 9:30am on 16 September 2022.

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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 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 3.6% in August 2022, mostly because of falls in household goods stores (negative 9.0%) and non-store retailing (negative 5.3%). The August 2022 fall in non-store retailing follows strong monthly growth in July 2022 (9.4%) when a range of promotions boosted sales.

As the fall in the value of online spending was larger than the value of retail sales as a whole, the proportion of online sales fell to 25.7% from 26.3% in July 2022. Despite this fall, it remains significantly above pre-pandemic levels (19.8% in February 2020).

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5. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 16 September 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 16 September 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 16 September 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 March and April) and seasonal effects (for example, increased spending in December 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

Quality

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).

Revisions

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 the retail sales revisions triangles published on a one-month and 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. An update on retail sales developments was published on 29 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 policymaking.

Comparability with international data

The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for August 2022 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 15 September 2022. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, August 2022 (PDF, 664KB), 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 2 (Apr to Jun) 2022 was published on 15 September 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, 236KB) across the EU on 5 September 2022 for July 2022. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU27 when compared with May 2022.

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10. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 16 September 2022, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Retail sales; Great Britain: August 2022.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Rhys Lewis
retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 1633 455602