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Largest monthly fall in retail sales since 2021 COVID-19 lockdowns

Retail sales volumes (the amount of stuff bought) in Great Britain fell by 3.2% in December 2023, the biggest drop since January 2021, when coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown restrictions were still in place across the country.

The fall follows a 1.4% rise in sales volumes in November 2023. Retailers have suggested that shoppers may have done more of their Christmas shopping in November to take advantage of Black Friday sales.

Annual sales volumes dropped by 2.8% in 2023 reaching the lowest levels since 2018.

Around 6 in 10 adults (62%) in Great Britain said they were spending less on non-essentials because of increases in the cost of living.

This was according to those asked between 17 and 28 January 2024 as part of our latest Public opinions and social trends bulletin.

Overall, around half (49%) of adults said their cost of living had risen compared with a month ago, although this was down from 67% during a similar period a year earlier (11 to 22 January 2023).

According to more detailed analysis from the survey covering the period 12 July to 1 October 2023, 3 in 10 adults (29%) said they would not be able to afford an unexpected expense of £850 or more. This rose to 40% among disabled adults, 53% among renters, and 66% among disabled adults who were renting.

Pay growth in real terms (adjusted for inflation) in Great Britain continued to rise in October to December 2023. Annual growth was 1.4% for total pay (including bonuses) and 1.8% for regular pay (excluding bonuses), respectively, according to our latest earnings data.

By contrast, regular pay growth (not adjusted for inflation and excluding bonuses) remained strong at 6.2% in October to December 2023, but was lower than in recent periods.

Among trading businesses, more than 1 in 6 (18%) expect to increase the price of goods or services they sell in January 2024, according to our latest Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS) for 27 November to 10 December 2023.

Businesses cited energy prices as the main reason for the price increase, at 25%, up 3 percentage points for factors listed for December 2023.

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