Retail sales, Great Britain: September 2019

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

This is not the latest release. View latest release

This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Charlee Humphries

Release date:
17 October 2019

Next release:
14 November 2019

1. Main points

  • In the three months to September 2019, moderate growth in the quantity bought continued at 0.6% when compared with the previous three months, with all sectors within non-food stores reporting declines except “other stores”.

  • The quantity bought was flat (0.0%) in September 2019 when compared with the previous month, following a fall of 0.3% in August 2019.

  • The year-on-year growth rate shows that the quantity bought in September 2019 increased by 3.1%, with growth across all sectors except department stores and household goods.

  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing was 19.1% in September 2019, compared with 19.5% reported in August 2019.  

Back to table of contents

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 five-week period 25 August 2019 to 28 September 2019.

Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

Retail sales collects turnover data from retailers, which are data on money through the till before any deductions, including refunded items. 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 a monthly 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.

Back to table of contents

3. Main figures for total retail sales

In September 2019, as the only measure to show a decline, the monthly growth rate fell by 0.2% in the amount spent and was flat on the month (0.0%) in the quantity bought.

Comparing the three months to September with the previous three months, the amount spent increased by 1.0%, while the quantity bought increased by 0.6%.

When compared with the same period a year earlier, both the amount spent and the quantity bought in retail sales showed strong growth of 3.4% and 3.1% respectively.

Figure 1 shows the longer-term trend for the monthly and the three-monthly path.

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 a general increase in retail sales, the monthly path shows more volatility than the smoother three-month on three-month series.

Looking at the three-month on three-month movement, from September 2016 sales were increasing at a steady rate until the beginning of 2017 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, although 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. This was partly attributed to consecutive months of hot weather, as sales in the three months to June, July and August 2018 increased by 2.1%, 2.6% and 2.1% respectively. Slow growth followed for a period from October 2018 to February 2019.

The monthly growth rate of 1.2% in March 2019 resulted in a stronger rate of growth in the three-month on three-month movement for three consecutive months from March to May 2019. This slowed to 0.6% in June 2019 as the growth in March 2019 falls into the previous three months.

Back to table of contents

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

In September 2019, all four main sectors contributed positively to the amount spent and quantity bought, resulting in a year-on-year growth of 3.4 and 3.1 percentage points respectively.

Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the growth in the quantity bought at 1.4 percentage points. Food stores reported the largest contribution to the amount spent at 1.5 percentage points in September 2019.

Back to table of contents

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

Figure 3 displays the contribution by sector to month-on-month growth, with the amount spent falling by 0.2 percentage points and the quantity bought remaining flat.

Fuel was the largest negative contributor to the amount spent at negative 0.3 percentage points, and for the quantity bought, fuel and non-store retailing both contributed negative 0.2 percentage points in September 2019.

Back to table of contents

6. A closer look at retail sales by sector

The three-month on three-month picture is one of moderate growth, reporting an increase of 0.6% when compared with the previous three months. Non-store retailing showed strong growth at 4.3%; this includes a strong monthly growth in July 2019 of 6.9% with summer promotions boosting sales more than usual in this month. Food stores also reported a growth in the three-month on three-month movement; this follows three previous months of decline in the three-month on three-month growth rate.

In contrast, non-food stores showed a fall in the three months to September 2019 with all sectors except “other stores” reporting falls within this sector as consumers appeared to buy fewer non-essential items in September 2019.

The month-on-month figures display a different picture of no growth and remained unchanged from a fall of 0.3% in August 2019. Slight growth in food and non-food is offset by declines in non-store and fuel.

Figure 4 focuses on the three-month on three-month growth rates for the sectors within non-food stores.

The quantity bought in the three-month on three-month growth rate for non-food stores fell by 0.2% in September 2019. This was as a result of falls in all store types except for “other non-food”.

Department stores continued the ongoing decline in the three-month on three-month movement resulting in 13 consecutive months of no growth in this sector.

Household goods stores showed months of strong growth until December 2018 where falls were then reported until June 2019. Following this period of decline, June, July and August 2019 reported growths in household goods, but in turn household goods experienced a fall of 0.7% in September 2019.

Clothing stores showed a decline for three consecutive months in September after experiencing a period of strong growth earlier in the year. Feedback from retailers suggested that clothing sales were affected by the warmer than usual weather in recent months.

Back to table of contents

7. What is 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. Internet sales increased by 9.1% for the amount spent in September 2019 when compared with September 2018, with all sectors reporting growths except department stores.

In contrast, internet sales fell on the month by 2.0% when compared with August 2019. “Other stores” reported the largest fall of 4.6% but non-store retailing was the largest contributor to the monthly decline owing to its large weight of 50.7%, and fell by 2.9%.

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing was 19.1% in September 2019, compared with 19.5% reported in August 2019.

Back to table of contents

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 accompanying datasets. This includes data on:

  • response rates
  • standard errors
  • revision triangle
  • distribution analysis

The Retail sales Quality and Methodology Information document 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
Back to table of contents

Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

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