Retail sales, Great Britain: March 2022

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

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Release date:
22 April 2022

Next release:
20 May 2022

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes fell by 1.4% in March 2022 following a fall of 0.5% (revised from a fall of 0.3%) in February 2022; sales volumes were 2.2% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

  • The largest contribution to the fall came from non-store retailing in which sales volumes fell by 7.9% over the month following a fall of 6.9% in February; despite these drops, sales volumes were 20.3% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

  • Food store sales volumes fell by 1.1% in March 2022 and have fallen each month since November 2021; higher spending in pubs and restaurants linked to reduced coronavirus restrictions, as well as the impact of rising food prices on the cost of living are possible factors for reduced spending in food stores.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 3.8% in March 2022 with other data sources indicating that some non-essential road travel had been reduced following record high petrol and diesel prices.

  • Non-food store sales volumes rose by 1.3% in March 2022 because of growth in other non-food stores (2.9%), and household goods stores (2.6%) such as DIY stores.

  • The proportion of retail sales online fell to 26.0% in March 2022, its lowest proportion since February 2020 (22.7%), continuing a broad downward trend since its peak in February 2021 (37.1%).

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2. Retail sales in March

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

Retail sales volumes fell by 1.4% in March 2022, following a fall of 0.5% in February 2022 (revised from a fall of 0.3%). Retail sales values, unadjusted for price changes, fell by 0.2% in March 2022, following a rise of 0.4% in February. When compared with February 2020's pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level, total retail sales were 2.2% and 10.1% higher in volume and value terms, respectively.

Compared with the same period a year earlier, sales volumes over the last three months rose by 5.4% while sales values rose by 13.8% reflecting an annual implied deflator (or implied growth in prices) of 8.4%. Percentage change over the past year should be interpreted with caution given the impact of coronavirus restrictions and base effects on growth rates for more information, read our blog post explaining base effects. For example, in March 2021 there were restrictions on non-essential retail in England and Scotland. Some restrictions on non-essential retail were lifted in Wales from 22 March 2022.

The reporting period for this bulletin covers 27 February to 2 April 2022.

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Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector

Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 1.4% month-on-month fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in March 2022. This highlights that non-store retailing had the largest contributions to the fall over the month. To note, other retail sectors, not classified as “Non-store retailing”, have a physical presence but may also trade online.

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3. Retail sales, selected sectors

Non-store retailing

Sales volumes fell by 7.9% in March, down from a fall of 6.9% in February 2022. This follows increases of 4.5% in January 2022 and 2.3% in December 2021, when strong online sales may have been linked to consumer concerns about the Omicron variant of coronavirus (COVID-19). Despite the fall in March 2022, sales volumes were 20.3% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

Some of the fall in February and March 2022 may also be linked to affordability concerns. Results from our Opinion and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) covering the period 16 to 27 March found that of the actions taken because of an increase in the cost of living, 54% of adults reported spending less on non-essentials.

Food stores

Food store sales volumes fell by 1.1% over the month to March 2022 and have fallen each month since November 2021.

Supermarkets reported a fall of 0.9% over the month, alongside falls in specialist food stores (such as butchers and bakers) of 0.7% and alcohol and tobacco stores, which fell by 11.3%.

Wider spending in pubs and restaurants may explain some of the fall. Data on UK spending on debit and credit cards based on clearing house automated payments system (CHAPS) payments made by credit and debit card payment processors, reported a further pick up in its "social" spending category (such as restaurants and pubs) between February and March 2022.

Affordability may also explain some of the fall in recent months. Results from our Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), covering the period 16 to 27 March, found that 87% of adults reported that their cost of living had increased over the last month. This was up from 83% in the previous period (3 to 13 March 2022) and up from 62% when this question was first asked (3 to 14 November 2021). The most common reason reported by adults who said their cost of living had increased was an increase in the price of food shopping (88%).

Automotive fuel

Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 3.8% in March 2022. This follows an increase of 3.8% and 3.7% in January and February 2022 after Plan B restrictions, which included asking people to work from home if they could, were lifted in England at the end of January 2022.

Average road fuel sales published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy reported a peak in demand on 24 and 25 February as Russia invaded Ukraine, which may have brought forward some fuel sales from March to February 2022.

Our Consumer price inflation March 2022 release reported record high petrol and diesel prices in March 2022, which may have reduced travel. Results from OPN covering the period 16 to 27 March found that of adults who said that their cost of living had increased, 39% were cutting back on non-essential journeys in private vehicles.

Non-food stores

Non-food stores as a whole saw monthly sales volumes rise by 1.3% in March 2022 and are 2.0% above their pre-coronavirus levels of February 2020.

The sub-sector of other non-food stores reported a monthly increase in sales volumes of 2.9% in March 2022 because of strong growth in second-hand goods stores (particularly antiques stores and auctioning houses).

Household goods store sales volumes rose by 2.6% in March 2022 because of growth in DIY stores (4.9%) and furniture and lighting stores (4.7%).

Department stores reported a monthly fall of 0.1% in sales volumes while clothing stores sales volumes fell by 0.5%

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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 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 March 2022 by 6.0% when compared with February 2022 because of strong falls in non-store retailing (negative 10.4%) and other non-food stores (negative 9.6%).

The proportion of online sales fell to 26.0% from 27.5% in February 2022. This is a continuation of a broad falling trend since its peak in February 2021 (37.1%). Despite the ongoing trend, the proportion of sales made online is still above its level of 19.6% in February 2020 before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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5. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 22 April 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 22 April 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 22 April 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 June) and seasonal effects (for example, increased spending in March 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


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 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

For further information on the revisions profile, please see the retail sales revisions triangles published on a one-month and three-month growth basis.

Seasonal adjustment

All seasonal-adjustment parameters for our volume and value data, for all businesses and internet-data time series, up to March 2022 have been reviewed. Many series are affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)-related actions in March 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.

Publication time

The Office for Statistics Regulation has finalised its consultation on release practices. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has welcomed the findings, specifically noting that the release-time exemptions, which were granted during the pandemic, are now incorporated into the revised Code of Practice. As such, the retail sales release will continue to be published at 7am.

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 those 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 March 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.

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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 policy making.

Comparability with international data

The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for March 2022 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 14 April 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). The NISRA Retail sales index 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 across the EU on 7 April 2022 for February 2022. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU27 when compared with January 2022.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Rhys Lewis
Telephone: +44 1633 455602