The latest ONS figures reveal retail sales volumes fell for a record-breaking fifth consecutive month in September, as spending in shops dipped by 0.2 per cent compared to August 2021. However, clothing and department store sales continued to show signs of recovery, rising by 4.3 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.
Overall non-food stores experienced a fall of 1.4 per cent in sales volumes while food store sales volumes rose by 0.6 per cent. Household goods saw the largest monthly decline of 9.3 per cent while furniture and book sales were also hit particularly hard.
The proportion of retail sales online meanwhile increased by 28.1 per cent in September compared to 27.9 per cent in August – a substantially higher percentage than then 19.7 per cent in February 2020 before the pandemic.
The unexpected fall in retail sales volumes follows a month of fuel shortages on the forecourts and supply-chain issues, which has led to gaps on shop shelves. It marks the longest run of monthly sales volume decline since records began in 1996.
Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre comments: “It is always disappointing to see retail sales declining, especially as we head into the busiest and most important time of the year. The current trends are a reflection of the fragile consumer confidence, caused by uncertainty – whether it is the availability of products or the rising number of Covid-19 cases.
“Online sales have risen, suggesting that safety fears are a concern for shoppers, and we need real clarity from the government on this.
“The high street and the wider UK economy need retailers to have strong final quarter and the Chancellor must address the fragile high street recovery in his forthcoming statement by reducing business rates permanently and significantly.”