Retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 0.9% in March 2023, following a rise of 1.1% in February 2023 (revised from a rise of 1.2%).
Looking at the broader picture, sales volumes rose by 0.6% in the three months to March 2023 when compared with the previous three months; the first three-month on three-month rise since August 2021.
Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 1.3% in March 2023, following a rise of 2.4% in February, with feedback from retailers that poor weather conditions throughout most of March affected sales.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.7% in March 2023, following a rise of 0.6% in February 2023.
Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes fell by 0.8% in March 2023, following a rise of 0.3% in February 2023.
Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 0.2% in March 2023, following a fall of 1.2% in February 2023; sales remain 8.5% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.
month on a
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Download this table Table 1: Main retail figures.xls .csv
Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in March 2023, with both volume and value growth rates.
Monthly retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 0.9% in March 2023 following a rise of 1.1% in February 2023, revised down from an increase of 1.2% in our previous publication.
Looking more broadly, sales volumes rose by 0.6% in the three months to March 2023 when compared with the previous three months. This is the highest rate and first rise in this series since August 2021 (1.3%).
Retail sales volumes in March 2023 were 3.1% lower than the same month last year and 0.7% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 level.
The reporting period for this bulletin covers 26 February to 1 April 2023 and so excludes the school Easter holiday period from 3 to 12 April 2023.
Improvements following our annual seasonal adjustment review will be implemented in our next release on 26 May 2023, which may lead to revisions to historical periods.
Figure 1 shows the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in retail sales over time.
More about economy, business and jobs
Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector
Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 0.9% month-on-month fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in March 2023. This highlights that the fall over the month is because of falls across all main sectors except automotive fuel whose contribution rounded to zero.Back to table of contents
Total non-food stores sales volumes (total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 1.3% over the month, following a rise of 2.4% in February 2023.
Feedback from retailers suggests that this was partly because of poor weather conditions in March 2023. The Met Office's monthly climate summary reported that the UK had 155% of average rainfall for the month, making it the sixth wettest March on record since 1836.
Within non-food stores, department stores and clothing stores sales volumes fell by 3.2% and 1.7% over the month.
Other non-food stores, such as jewellery stores and garden centres, fell by 0.6% in March 2023. This follows strong growth in February 2023 (2.9%) because of second-hand goods stores.
Household goods stores sales volumes rose by 0.1% in March 2023, following a fall of 1.1% in February 2023.
Food store sales volumes fell by 0.7% in March 2023, following a rise of 0.6% in February 2023, which may have been affected by shortages of some food items.
Our Public opinions and social trends: personal experiences and shortages of goods dataset for the period 8 to 19 March 2023 reported that 26% of adults experienced shortages of essential food items that were needed on a regular basis. This is an increase from 18% in the period 8 to 19 February 2023.
More than a third of adults (36%) also reported that they could not find a replacement when the items they needed were not available (8 to 19 March 2023). This proportion increased from 25% in the previous month (8 to 19 February 2023).
Our Public opinion and social trends bulletin for the period 5 to 16 April is published at 9:30am on 21 April 2023.
Compared with their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels, food store sales volumes were down 3.0%, with continued feedback from retailers of a decline in volumes sold (quantity bought) because of the increased cost of living and food prices.
Our Consumer price inflation: March 2023 bulletin reported record increases in food and non-alcoholic beverages prices in the 12 months to March 2023.
Non-store retailing sales volumes fell by 0.8% in March 2023, following a rise of 0.3% in February 2023. Despite the fall, sales volumes were 19.3% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.Back to table of contents
|Category||Online sales as a|
retail in this
|Online sales: |
month on a
|Online sales: |
|Index categories |
|All retailingFootnote 1||25.8||3.6||0.8||100.0|
|Textile, clothing |
and footwear stores
|Household goods stores||22.5||-1.3||5.4||7.6|
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 pence in every pound spent online was spent in department stores in 2022.
Online spending values rose by 0.8% in March 2023, because of monthly increases across all industries except other non-food stores.
The value of online spending rose, while the value of retail sales as a whole fell; so the proportion of online sales rose to 25.8% in March 2023, from 25.4% in February 2023. The proportion of retail sales online has remained broadly consistent at around 26% since May 2022.
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 21 April 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 21 April 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 21 April 2023 Internet sales in Great Britain by store type, month and year.
Retail Sales Index categories and their percentage weights Dataset | Released 24 March 2023 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.
Improvements following our annual seasonal adjustment review will be implemented in our next release on 26 May 2023, which may lead to larger revisions to historical periods.
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 datasets, published on a three-month growth basis.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 March 2023 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 14 April 2023. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, March 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 4 (Oct to Dec) 2022 was published on 16 March 2023.
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 11 April 2023 for February 2023. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and the European Union (EU27), when compared with January 2023.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 1633 455602