Retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 3.2% in December 2023, from a rise of 1.4% in November 2023 (revised up from an increase of 1.3%); December's decrease was the largest monthly fall since January 2021, when coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions affected sales.
Looking at the quarterly picture, sales volumes fell by 0.9% in the three months to December 2023 when compared with the previous three months.
Non-food store sales volumes fell by 3.9% in December 2023, following a 2.7% increase in November 2023 when earlier Black Friday sales, and wider discounting, increased sales.
Food store sales volumes fell by 3.1% in December 2023, from an increase of 1.1% in November 2023.
Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes fell by 2.1% in December 2023, following a fall of 1.1% in November 2023.
Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 1.9% in December 2023, following a rise of 0.8% in November 2023.
On an annual basis, sales volumes fell by 2.8% in 2023 and were their lowest level since 2018.
Changes to this bulletin
We will be trialling a new structure for this bulletin based on user feedback from its next release on 16 February 2024. We will continue to gather user feedback before making a longer-term decision on this new structure. Datasets published alongside the release will continue in their existing format.
Contact email@example.com with any questions or feedback on this change.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
on a year
on a year
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Download this table Table 1: Main retail figures, volume and value sales, December 2023.xls .csv
Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in December 2023, with both volume and value growth rates. The reporting period for this bulletin covers 26 November to 30 December 2023.
Our estimates are seasonally adjusted, which means they account for seasonal effects such as Cyber Monday (included in this period), or increased spending over Christmas.
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.
Month-on-month sales volumes fell 3.2% in December 2023 which is the largest monthly fall since January 2021, when tighter nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions affected sales. The monthly fall in December follows growth of 1.4% in November 2023 as consumers capitalised on Black Friday sales.
Three-month on three-month volumes fell by 0.9% in December 2023, continuing the trend in recent months.
More about economy, business and jobs
Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector
Figure 2 shows contributions to the 3.2% monthly fall in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in December 2023. All four main sectors reported a fall over the month with the largest downward contribution from non-food stores, followed by food stores.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
Total non-food store sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 3.9% in December 2023, from an increase of 2.7% in November 2023. Retailers reported that part of the fall over the month to December was because of consumers purchasing gifts earlier than usual, in November.
This is supported by our Public opinion and social trends bulletin for the period 29 November to 10 December which reported that 46% of adults had, or were planning to spend less, on Christmas food or presents with 39% buying Christmas food or presents earlier, to spread the cost.
Within the non-food sector, department stores sales volumes fell by 7.1% in December 2023. Retailers reported quiet trading in the post-Christmas period, and a reduction in the sales of household goods.
Other non-food stores sales volumes fell by 4.5% over the month, largely because of falls in sports equipment, games and toys stores, and watches and jewellery stores. Respondents reported a slow December because of cost-of-living pressures and reduced footfall.
Household goods stores sales volumes fell by 3.0% in December 2023, mostly because of a strong monthly fall in hardware stores. Respondents again cited the difficult economic climate with customers spending less on average.
Clothing stores sales volumes fell by 1.5% over the month. Retailers commented on a tough trading month, alongside the effect of starting their sales period earlier than usual.
Figure 4 shows the quantity bought in food stores over time for both the rolling three-month on three-month and the month-on-month movement.
Sales volumes fell 3.1% on the month, and 0.1% when comparing the three months to December 2023 with the previous three months.
Growth of 1.1% in November was attributed to early Christmas shopping by consumers, with this then partly contributing to the December fall.
Figure 5 shows the quantity bought (volume) within non-store retailing over time for both the rolling three-month on three-month and the month-on-month movement.
Non-store retailing sales volumes fell by 2.1% over the month to December 2023, following a fall of 1.1% in November. Retailers reported economic factors behind the fall, in particular the effect of inflation.
When comparing the three months to December with the previous three months, sales volumes fell by 3.5%.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
as a proportion
of retail in
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|All retailingFootnote 1
Download this table Table 2: Summary of internet statistics: December 2023.xls .csv
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 1.7% from November to December 2023, with falls across all sectors apart from non-store retailing which was unchanged.
As the monthly fall in the value of online retail was smaller than the fall in the value of total retail, the proportion of online sales rose from 26.6% in November 2023 to 27.1% in December 2023.
The proportion of online sales in December 2023 is slightly above the average of the preceding 12 months (26.5%) and substantially above pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.7% in February 2020).Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
Figure 6 shows that retail sales volumes fell by 2.8% in 2023, following a fall of 3.4% in 2022. This put annual sales volumes at their lowest level since before the pandemic in 2018.
In 2022 falls were identified in food stores and non-store retailing with consumers returning to normal habits of in-store shopping and eating out in the post-lockdown period. More information can be found in our Retail sales, Great Britain: December 2022 bulletin.
Figure 7 shows that in 2023 falls were identified in all main sectors, reflecting the effect of high inflation and the cost-of-living pressures increasing consumer caution.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 19 January 2024
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 19 January 2024
Total sales and average weekly spending estimates for each retail sector in Great Britain in thousands of pounds.
Retail Sales Index internet sales
Dataset | Released 19 January 2024
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.
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 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 estimates refer to raw data, where the effects of regular or seasonal patterns have not been removed.
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.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
Response rates for December 2023
For December 2023, the response rates were 61.4% based on forms returned and this accounted for 92.4% of total turnover coverage of the sample population. Historical response information can be found in our Retail sales quality tables.
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) report.
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.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
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 November 2023 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 17 January 2024. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services December 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). Retail Sales Index headline figures and commentary for Northern Ireland are included in their Index of Services release for Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2023 published on 14 December.
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 across the EU on 8 January 2024 for November 2023. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and the European Union (EU27), when compared with October 2023.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
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