Retail sales, Great Britain: May 2019

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

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This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Rhian Murphy

Release date:
20 June 2019

Next release:
18 July 2019

1. Main points

  • In the three months to May 2019, the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 1.6% when compared with the previous three months, with growth across all stores except department stores and household goods stores.

  • The fall of 0.9% in the quantity bought in department stores in the three months to May 2019 was the eighth consecutive month of no positive growth in this sector.

  • The quantity bought in May 2019 decreased by 0.5% when compared with the previous month, with a strong decline of 4.5% in clothing sales.

  • The year-on-year growth rate in the average store price for clothing fell for the ninth consecutive month in May 2019 but evidence from retailers suggested that the poor weather may have delayed the sales for summer ranges.

  • In May 2019, online retailing accounted for 19.3% of total retailing, with an overall growth of 8.2% when compared with the same month a year earlier.

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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 28 April 2019 to 25 May 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. 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 an average weekly 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.

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3. Main figures for total retail sales

In the three months to May 2019, both the amount spent and the quantity bought in the retail industry increased by 1.6% when compared with the previous three months (Table 1).

When compared with a year earlier, both the amount spent and quantity bought showed growth of 2.7% and 2.3% respectively in May 2019.

As the only measure to show a decline, the monthly growth rate for both the amount spent and the quantity bought fell by 0.3% and negative 0.5% respectively.

Figure 1 shows the volatile monthly growth rate against the three-month on three-month trend for a longer-term picture.

Figure 1 shows the rolling three-month on three-month index against the more volatile monthly path for the quantity bought.

Earlier in the series, from May 2016, sales were increasing at a steady rate until late 2016, when a short period of contraction was seen in the three months to March 2017. From April 2017, sales began to recover and increase steadily, albeit at a slower rate. From January 2018, the quantity bought began to level for a short period until May 2018, when a faster rate of growth was seen during the summer of 2018; partly attributed to consecutive months of hot weather in June, July and August.

After a period of slower growth towards the end of 2018 and at the beginning of 2019, strong monthly growth in March 2019 resulted in growth of 1.6% in the three months to May 2019. In contrast, the monthly growth rate has declined for two consecutive months at negative 0.1% in April 2019 and negative 0.5% in May 2019.

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4. Growth in retail sales by sector

All sectors except department stores and household goods stores showed growth in the three months to May 2019, resulting in an overall increase of 1.6%. The year-on-year growth rate showed a similar picture with declines in these stores and an overall growth of 2.3%.

Department stores continued the recent trend of declining growth at negative 0.9% in the quantity bought in the three months to May 2019 (Figure 2).

As shown in Figure 2, we have not seen an increase in sales in this sector since September 2018 for the three-month on three-month growth rate. May 2019 is the eighth consecutive month of no growth in this sector. Each month saw a decline except for February 2019, which remained flat.

Looking again at Table 2, the monthly growth rate in the quantity bought decreased by 0.5%, with all sectors except other goods and household goods stores showing a decline.

Clothing stores showed the largest monthly decline at negative 4.5% (Table 2).

This strong decline in clothing stores follows relatively high levels in recent months. The year-on-year growth of 0.3% was a considerable slowdown to the strong growth in March 2019 at 7.2% and April 2019 at 9.2% (Figure 3).

Clothing sales began to increase at a steady rate from October 2018, reaching high levels in April 2019 with a year-on-year growth rate of 9.2%. Store prices continued to fall gradually over the same period, with nine consecutive months of year-on-year decline from September 2018 to May 2019.

Clothing store sales in May 2019 slowed to 0.3%, with anecdotal evidence from retailers suggesting that the fall is a consequence of the poor weather experienced in this period as consumers held off on their summer clothing purchases. This was in comparison with the hot weather experienced in May 2018, which helped boost sales in the same month a year earlier. Warmer weather also brought forward sales in March and April 2019, which increased levels of spending in these months.

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

Figure 4 shows that there were no positive contributions to the month-on-month growth for either the amount spent at negative 0.3 percentage points and the quantity bought at negative 0.5 percentage points.

Fuel stores contributed negatively to the amount spent and quantity bought, both at negative 0.2 percentage points. Non-food stores also contributed negatively to the amount spent and quantity bought, at negative 0.1 and negative 0.2 percentage points respectively.

Non-store retailing and food stores were both flat on the month for the amount spent and quantity bought.

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

In May 2019, all four main sectors contributed positively to both the amount spent and quantity bought, resulting in year-on-year contributions of 2.7 and 2.3 percentage points respectively (Figure 5).

Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the growth, with both the amount spent and quantity bought at 1.4 percentage points.

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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.

Online sales increased by 8.2% for the amount spent in May 2019 when compared with May 2018, with all sectors expect food stores reporting growths.

In contrast, online sales were flat on the month (0.0%) for the amount spent when compared with April 2019. Household goods stores was the largest positive contributor at 3.0%, while other stores were the largest negative contributor at negative 5.3%.

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing remained at 19.3% in May 2019.

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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

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Rhian Murphy
retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455602