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Published on October 22nd, 2021 | by The GC Team

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Non-food retail still suffering in September

According to first estimates of retail sales in Great Britain in September 2021 released today (22 October) by the Office for National Statistics, retail sales volumes fell by 0.2%, following a 0.6% fall in August. But despite the fall in September, volumes were 4.2% higher than their pre-pandemic February 2020 levels.

Non-food stores were the largest contributor towards the monthly decrease, and within the non-food category household goods stores showed the largest fall at -9.3%. Consumers appear reluctant to spend on higher-ticket household items, a trend reflected in the GfK Consumer Confidence figures, also released today (see this website).  

Despite relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in summer 2021, in-store retail sales remain subdued; the proportion of retail sales online rose to 28.1% in September 2021 from 27.9% in August, substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020 before the pandemic. Online spending values increased in September 2021 by 0.5% when compared with August 2021. The monthly increase in online spending values resulted in a slight increase in the proportion of online sales, which increased to 28.1% in September 2021, from 27.9% in August. This remains far higher than the proportion of online retail spending in February 2020, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, of 19.7%, although it is below the peak pandemic level of 36.6% reached in February 2021.

Retail sales volumes have fallen each month since April 2021 when non-essential retailing re-opened and retail sales reached levels substantially above those before the pandemic. This is the longest period of consecutive monthly falls since February 1996, when this ONS reporting series began. However, sales remain 4.2% above the level seen before the pandemic (February 2020).

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