Retail sales, Great Britain: August 2023

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

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Dyddiad y datganiad:
22 September 2023

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
20 October 2023

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes are estimated to have risen by 0.4% in August 2023, partially recovering from a fall of 1.1% in July 2023 (revised from a fall of 1.2%). 

  • Looking broader, sales volumes rose by 0.3% in the three months to August 2023 when compared with the previous three months. 

  • Food stores sales volumes rose by 1.2% in August 2023, following a fall of 2.6% in July 2023 when supermarkets reported that the wet weather reduced clothing sales, and supermarket food sales also fell back.

  • Non-food stores sales volumes grew by 0.6% in August 2023, following a fall of 1.2% in July 2023 when poor weather reduced footfall. 

  • Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes fell by 1.3% in August 2023, following a rise of 1.9% in July 2023 when wet weather and a range of promotions boosted sales.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 1.2% in August 2023, with retailers suggesting the fall was linked to a sharp increase in petrol and diesel prices.

  • The percentage of retail sales taking place online fell from 27.4% in July 2023 to 26.9% in August 2023.   

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2. Retail sales in August

Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in August 2023, with both volume and value growth rates.

The reporting period for this bulletin covers 30 July to 26 August 2023.

Figure 1 shows the continued divergence between the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in retail sales over time because of price increases.

When compared with their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level in February 2020, total retail sales were 17.3% higher in value terms, but volumes were 1.5% lower.

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Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector

Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 0.4% month-on-month rise in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in August 2023. This highlights that the rise over the month was because of growth in food and non-food stores, despite falls in non-store retailing and automotive fuel.

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3. Retail sales, selected sectors

Food stores

Food stores sales volumes rose by 1.2% in August 2023 following a fall of 2.6% in July 2023. Supermarkets reported that some of the fall in July 2023 was because of poor weather reducing summer clothing sales.

Despite this partial recovery, food stores sales volumes remained 4.1% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels, as retailers continued to indicate that the increased cost of living and food prices are affecting sales volumes.

Non-food stores

Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) grew by 0.6% in August 2023, following a fall of 1.2% in July 2023 when feedback from retailers suggested that poor weather conditions affected sales.

The Met Office’s monthly climate summary for July (PDF, 4.8MB) reported that the UK had 170.0% of the average rainfall for the month, making it provisionally the wettest July since 2009 and the sixth-wettest July on record since 1836. While weather in August 2023 improved on July, it was still a mixed and unsettled month.

Within non-food, clothing stores sales volumes rose by 2.3% in August 2023, mostly recovering from their fall of 2.9% in July.

Household goods stores sales volumes reported a monthly rise of 1.1% in August 2023 because of increases in hardware and furniture stores.

Sales volumes for department stores and other non-food stores, such as bookshops, both fell by 0.4% in August 2023. Retailers suggested that consumers were still struggling with the increased cost of living and prices.

Non-store retailing

Non-store retailing sales volumes, which are predominantly online retailers, fell by 1.3% in August 2023, following a rise of 1.9% in July 2023. Feedback from online retailers suggested that July 2023 sales were boosted by the wet weather and a range of promotions in the month.

Automotive fuel

Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 1.2% in August 2023, following a rise of 0.9% in July 2023.

Retailers suggested that increasing petrol and diesel prices in August 2023 reduced fuel sales volumes.

Our Consumer price inflation August 2023 release reported that the average price of petrol rose by 5.3 pence per litre between July and August 2023 to stand at 148.5 pence per litre in August 2023. Similarly, diesel prices rose by 5.9 pence per litre to stand at 151.1 pence per litre.

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4. Online retail

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 0.9% from July to August 2023 because of falls in non-store retailing and other non-food stores, both of which grew strongly in July 2023.

This month-on-month fall in the value of online spending combined with growth in the overall value of retail sales meant the proportion of online sales fell from 27.4% in July 2023 to 26.9% in August 2023.

Despite this, the proportion of online sales continued to exceed pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.7% in February 2020), and with the exception of July 2023 (27.4%) is the highest since April 2022 (27.3%).

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5. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 22 September 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 22 September 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 22 September 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.

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6. Glossary

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

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

Non-seasonally adjusted estimates refer to raw data, where the effects of regular or seasonal patterns have not been removed.

Non-store retailing

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.

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7. Measuring the data


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).


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.

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8. Strengths and limitations

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 August 2023 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 14 September 2023. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services August 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, 346KB) across the EU on 6 September 2023 for July 2023. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and the European Union (EU27), when compared with June 2023.

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10. Cite this statistical bulletin

Office for National Statistics (ONS), released 22 September 2023, ONS website, statistical bulletin, Retail sales, Great Britain: August 2023

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Rhys Lewis
Ffôn: +44 1633 455602