Retail sales, Great Britain: May 2022

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

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Release date:
24 June 2022

Next release:
22 July 2022

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes fell by 0.5% in May 2022 following a rise of 0.4% in April 2022 (revised from a rise of 1.4%); sales volumes were 2.6% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

  • In the three months to May 2022, sales volumes fell by 1.3% when compared with the previous three months; this continues the downward trend since summer 2021.

  • The fall in sales volumes over the month was because of food stores, which fell by 1.6%; reduced spending in food stores seems to be linked to the impact of rising food prices and the cost of living.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 1.1% in May 2022, which may in part be linked to increased hybrid working and a fall in those working exclusively from home.

  • Non-food stores sales volumes were unchanged (0.0%) over the month; an increase in clothing sales (2.2%) was offset by a fall in household goods (negative 2.3%), such as furniture stores, and department stores (negative 1.1%). 

  • The proportion of retail sales online fell to 26.6% in May 2022 from 27.1% in April but remains substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic.


Revisions in this release are primarily because of improvements implemented following our annual seasonal adjustment review. Further details are provided in Section 7: Measuring the data.

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2. Retail sales in May

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

Retail sales volumes fell by 0.5% in May 2022, following a rise of 0.4% in April 2022 (revised from a rise of 1.4%). Retail sales values, unadjusted for price changes, rose by 0.6% in May 2022, following a rise of 1.0% in April. When compared with the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level in February 2020, total retail sales were 2.6% and 13.0% higher in volume and value terms, respectively.

Compared with the same period a year earlier, sales volumes over the last three months fell by 2.8%, while sales values rose by 6.9% reflecting an annual implied deflator (or implied growth in prices) of 9.7%. 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 1 May to 28 May 2022.

Figure 1 shows the quantity bought in retail sales over time for both the rolling three-month on three-month and the month-on-month movement. While both series show similar trends, the monthly path shows more volatility than the smoother three-month on three-month series.

Three-month on three-month sales volumes fell by 1.3%, continuing a broad downward trend since summer 2021 following the lifting of hospitality restrictions.

More about economy, business and jobs

Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector

Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 0.5% month-on-month fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in May 2022. This highlights that the fall over the month was because of food stores.

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3. Retail sales, selected sectors

Food stores

Food store sales volumes fell by 1.6% in May 2022, 2.4% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

Affordability may explain some of the falls in recent months. Results from our Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN), covering the period 11 to 22 May 2022, found that 88% of adults reported that their cost of living had increased over the last month, 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 (93%).

When asked about their shopping habits in the past two weeks, 44% of adults reported that they were buying less food when food shopping. This proportion appears to be increasing, having been 41% in the previous period (27 April to 8 May 2022) and 18% at the beginning of 2022.

Comments from some food retailers highlighted that they are seeing a decline in volumes sold because of increased food prices and cost of living impacts.

Automotive fuel

Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 1.1% in May 2022 down from 2.6% in April. Sales volumes were 1.6% below their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

The strength of fuel sales, despite rising fuel prices, may in part be linked to the continued shift towards hybrid working. Analysis of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey reported that during 2022, the proportion of workers both working at home and at their usual place of work ("hybrid working") has been rising, while the proportion of those working from home exclusively has fallen.

Non-food stores

Non-food stores sales volumes were unchanged over the month (0.0%), 2.1% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

Household goods stores (such as furniture stores) sales volumes fell by 2.3% in May 2022 because of falls in each of its sub-industries. The feedback from retailers suggests that consumers are cutting back on spending because of increased prices and affordability concerns. Department stores also reported a fall of 1.1% over the month.

Clothing stores reported a monthly increase in sales volumes of 2.2%. Feedback from some retailers suggests that the increase was linked to customers planning holidays and therefore buying new clothes. Other non-food stores increased by 0.1% over the month.

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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 May 2022 by 1.7% when compared with April 2022. This is because of falls in non-store retailing (negative 3.5%) and department stores (negative 1.7%). 

The proportion of online sales fell to 26.6% from 27.1% in April 2022. Despite the fall in May 2022, the proportion of online sales remains substantially above its level of 19.7% in February 2020 before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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5. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 24 June 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 24 June 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 24 June 2022
Internet sales in Great Britain by store type, month and year.

Retail Sales Index categories and their percentage weights
Dataset | Released 25 April 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 May and June) and seasonal effects (for example, increased spending in May 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 the Retail Sales Quality and Methodology Information (QMI).


Revisions in this release are a result of:

  • improvements following our annual seasonal adjustment review, which have been implemented in this release

  • 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 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.

Seasonal adjustment

Prior adjustments are made for calendar effects (where statistically significant) such as returns that do not comply with the standard trading period, bank holidays, Easter and the day of the week Christmas occurs. These have also been updated in this release.

All seasonal-adjustment parameters for our volume and value data, for all businesses and internet-data time series, up to May 2022 have been reviewed and updated.

Since 2020, many series are affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)-related action. 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.

Compliance check on Retail Sales statistics

On 11 February 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. An update on retail sales developments will be 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 policy making.

Comparability with international data

The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for May 2022 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 15 June 2022. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, May 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). Their release for Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2022 was published on 16 June 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 3 June 2022 for April 2022. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU27 when compared with March 2022.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Rhys Lewis
Telephone: +44 1633 455602