Retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 0.3% in October 2023, following a fall of 1.1% in September 2023 (revised from a fall of 0.9%).
Looking broader, sales volumes fell by 1.1% in the three months to October 2023 when compared with the previous three months.
Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 2.0% in October 2023; in the three months to October, sales volumes fell by 0.7% when compared with the previous three months, which may be affected by increasing fuel prices.
Food stores sales volumes fell by 0.3% in October 2023, from being unchanged (0.0%) in September 2023.
Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 0.2% in October 2023, following a 2.1% fall in September 2023; retailers suggested that cost of living, reduced footfall and the wet weather in the second half of the month contributed to the fall.
Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes rose by 0.8% in October 2023 following a fall of 2.4% in September 2023.
|Most recent month on a year earlier||Most recent 3 months on a year earlier||Most recent month on previous month||Most recent 3 months on previous 3 months||October 2023 compared with February 2020|
|Value (amount spent)||2.2||3.5||0.1||0.3||16.9|
|Volume (quantity bought)||-2.7||-1.8||-0.3||-1.1||-3.1|
|Value (excluding automotive fuel)||4.0||5.4||0.0||0.0||18.2|
|Volume (excluding automotive fuel)||-2.4||-1.7||-0.1||-1.1||-2.2|
Download this table Table 1: Main retail figures, volume and value sales, October 2023.xls .csv
Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in October 2023, with both volume and value growth rates.
The reporting period for this bulletin covers 1 October to 28 October 2023.
Figure 1 shows continued divergence between quantities bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in retail sales over time because of price increases.
When compared with their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in February 2020, total retail sales were 16.9% higher in value terms, but volumes were 3.1% lower.
Retail sales volumes in October 2023 were at their lowest level since February 2021 when there were widespread and extensive restrictions to non-essential retail in England, Scotland and Wales.
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Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector
Figure 2 shows contributions to the 0.3% monthly fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in October 2023. The fall over the month was predominately because of a fall in automotive fuel sales volumes, but also from both food and non-food stores. Non-store retailing was the only main sector to report growth in sales volumes over the month.Back to table of contents
Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 2.0% in October 2023, as retailers reported that consumers were spending their money more cautiously, alongside the impact of bad weather.
Despite some recent volatility in the monthly data series, in the three months to October 2023, sales volumes fell by 0.7% when compared with the previous three months. This may be because of the increasing price of fuel since July 2023 as reported by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero in their Weekly road fuel prices release.
Food stores sales volumes fell by 0.3% in October 2023, from being unchanged (0.0%) in the previous month.
Supermarkets reported an increase in sales volumes of 0.2% over the month while both specialist food stores (such as butchers and bakers), and alcohol and tobacco stores reported falls of 4.2% and 10.4%, respectively. Feedback from these retailers suggested that consumers were buying cheaper products and prioritising important items.
Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 0.2% in October 2023, from a fall of 2.1% in September 2023. Retailers suggested that cost of living, reduced footfall and the wet weather contributed to the fall.
Our Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators release reported a fall in national retail footfall (supplied by Springboard) towards the end of October. This is likely because of the unsettled and very wet weather in the second half of the month as detailed by the Met Office's monthly climate summary for October (PDF, 4.9MB) .
Within non-food, most sub-sectors reported falls in sales volumes over the month. Clothing stores reported a 0.9% fall in October 2023 sales volumes. Retailers attributed this to the continued unseasonably warm weather, particularly at the beginning of the month, affecting the sale of autumn and winter wear.
Household goods stores sales volumes fell by 1.1% in October 2023, mainly because of a fall from furniture stores.
Department stores sales volumes fell by 0.1% in October 2023, with some retailers suggesting this was because of a drop in consumer confidence.
Other non-food stores was the only sub-sector to register positive growth, with sales volumes rising by 0.8% in October 2023. This was because of a partial rebound from watches and jewellery stores, following a strong fall in September 2023.
Non-store retailing sales volumes rose by 0.8% in October 2023 following a fall of 2.4% in September 2023.
When compared with their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic level in February 2020, sales volumes for this sector were up by 16.2%.Back to table of contents
|Category||Online sales as a proportion of retail in this sector||Online sales: Most recent month on a year earlier||Online sales: Most recent month on previous month||Index categories and their percentage weights|
|All retailingFootnote 1||26.6||5.1||-1.2||100.0|
|Textile, clothing and footwear stores||27.7||8.8||-2.5||11.6|
|Household goods stores||26.6||16.7||-2.9||7.6|
Download this table Table 2: Summary of internet statistics: October 2023.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, seven pence in every pound spent online was spent in department stores in 2022.
Online spending values fell by 1.2% from September to October 2023, with falls across all sectors except non-store retailing.
As the monthly fall in the value of online retail was larger than the monthly fall in the value of total retail, the proportion of online sales also fell, from 26.9% in September 2023 to 26.6% in October 2023.
The proportion of online sales is broadly consistent with the average of the preceding 12 months (26.5%) and substantially above pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.7% in February 2020).Back to table of contents
Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 17 November 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 17 November 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 17 November 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 April and May) 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).
We have removed the business analysis dataset and the distribution analysis table, within the summary tables dataset, from the data published alongside this release to allow further quality assurance. We are also considering discontinuing these tables in future. Please contact us at email@example.com if you make use of these tables.
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 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 October 2023 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 15 November 2023. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services October 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 2 (Apr to June) 2023 was published on 14 September 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 (PDF, 347KB) across the EU on 8 November 2023 for September 2023. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and the European Union (EU27), when compared with August 2023.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
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