Retail sales, Great Britain: December 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:
20 January 2023

Next release:
17 February 2023

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 1.0% in December 2022, following a fall of 0.5% in November (revised from a fall of 0.4%).

  • Sales volumes were 1.7% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February levels.

  • Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 2.1% over the month, with continued feedback from retailers and other wider evidence that consumers are cutting back on spending because of increased prices and affordability concerns.

  • Food store sales volumes fell by 0.3% in December 2022 from a rise of 1.0% in November, with comments from some retailers suggesting that customers stocked up early for Christmas.

  • The proportion of online sales fell to 25.4% in December 2022 from 25.9% in November, with anecdotal evidence that Royal Mail strikes led to consumers shopping in stores more.

  • Between 2021 and 2022, retail sales volumes fell by 3.0%, as the lifting of restrictions on hospitality led to a return to eating out, and rising prices and the cost of living affected sales volumes.

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2. Retail sales in December

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

Retail sales volumes fell by 1.0% in December, following a fall of 0.5% in November 2022 (revised from a fall of 0.4%). Retail sales values, unadjusted for price changes, fell by 1.2% in December 2022, following a rise of 0.5% in November 2022. When compared with the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level in February 2020, total retail sales were 13.6% higher in value terms, but volumes were 1.7% lower.

Compared with the same period a year earlier, retail sales volumes fell by 5.7% in the three months to December 2022, while sales values rose by 4.5%.

The reporting period for this bulletin covers 27 November to 31 December 2022. Cyber Monday was on 28 November and is included in our reference period. Our estimates are seasonally adjusted, which means they account for seasonal effects such as Cyber Monday, and spending over Christmas.

Figure 1 shows the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in retail sales over time. Sales volumes fell by 1.0% in December 2022, continuing a broad downward trend that has been seen since the lifting of hospitality restrictions in summer 2021.

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Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector

Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 1.0% month-on-month fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in December 2022. This highlights that the fall in non-food stores sales volume was the largest contributor to the fall.

Automotive fuel and non-store retailing both contributed 0.0% to the change over the month. Automotive fuel sales volumes were unchanged over the month (0.0%), while non-store retailing fell by 0.3%.

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3. Retail sales, selected sectors

Non-food stores

Total non-food stores sales volumes (total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 2.1% over the month. There was continued feedback from retailers suggesting that consumers are cutting back on spending because of increased prices and affordability concerns.

Results from our Public opinion and social trends bulletin covering the period 7 to 18 December found that 6 in 10 (60%) adults said they were planning on cutting back on the amount of money they spent on Christmas in 2022 compared with last year. The most frequent ways these adults were planning to spend less money during the 2022 Christmas season were buying fewer presents (79%) and buying less expensive presents (73%). Our Public opinion and social trends bulletin for the period 21 December to 8 January 2023 published on 13 January 2023 reported consistent estimates.

Within non-food stores, the sub-sector of other non-food stores reported a monthly fall in sales volumes of 6.2% because of strong falls in cosmetics stores, sports equipment, games and toys stores and watches and jewellery stores.

Department stores sales volumes fell by 3.1% in December 2022, from a rise of 2.1% in November. Retailers reported that longer Black Friday sales contributed to the November increase.

Clothing stores sales volumes rose by 1.0% in December 2022 while household goods stores (such as furniture stores) increased by 1.5% over the month.

Food stores

Food store sales volumes fell by 0.3% in December 2022 from a rise of 1.0% in November. Feedback from some retailers suggested that the November increase was because of customers stocking up early for Christmas.

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

While sales values (amount spent) continue to increase, supermarkets have reported that they are seeing a decline in volumes sold (quantity bought) because of the increased cost of living and food prices.

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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 2.9% in December 2022, because of monthly falls across all industries except household goods and food stores.

The proportion of online sales fell to 25.4% in December 2022 from 25.9% in November, with feedback from some retailers suggesting that Royal Mail strikes led to consumers shopping in stores more.

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).

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5. Sales volumes in 2022

Retail sales volumes fell by 3.0% in 2022, from an increase of 5.2% in 2021.

Food store sales volumes fell by 5.9% between 2021 and 2022, as the lifting of restrictions on hospitality led to a return to eating out. Non-store retailing (which is predominantly online retailers) fell by 11.5% as the wider economy reopened and consumers returned to shopping in stores.

In recent months, rising prices and the cost of living have also affected sales volumes, with consumers adapting their spending habits in response.

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6. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 20 January 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 20 January 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 20 January 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.

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7. 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 effect 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 (such as 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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8. 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 Index 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 our retail sales revisions triangles published on a one-month growth basis and retail sales revisions triangles 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 an update on retail sales developments on 29 June 2022.

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9. 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 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 December 2022 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 18 January 2023. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, December 2022 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 across the EU on 6 January 2022 for November 2022. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and the European Union (EU27), when compared with October 2022.

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11. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 20 January 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Retail sales, Great Britain: December 2022

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

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