Retail sales, Great Britain: July 2021

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

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Cyswllt:
Email Rhys Lewis

Dyddiad y datganiad:
20 August 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
17 September 2021

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes fell by 2.5% between June and July 2021; looking more broadly, however, they were up by 5.2% in the three months to July compared with the previous three months and are 5.8% higher than their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic February 2020 levels.

  • Food store sales volumes fell by 1.5% in July 2021, following an increase in the previous month when sales were positively boosted by the start of the Euro 2020 football championship.

  • Non-food stores reported a fall of 4.4% in sales volumes in July 2021 when compared with June 2021, driven by falls in other stores (negative 10.1%), such as second-hand goods stores and computer and telecoms equipment stores. 

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 2.9% over the month, its first monthly fall since February 2021; with heavy rainfall in early July impacting road traffic volumes, automotive fuel sales volumes are now 6.7% below their pre-coronavirus pandemic February 2020 levels.

  • The proportion of retail sales online increased to 27.9% in July from 27.1% in June and remains substantially higher than the proportion of online retail spending in February 2020 (pre-coronavirus pandemic) of 19.8%.

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2. Retail sales in July

Non-food stores (such as computer stores and sports equipment stores) reported a fall of 4.4% in monthly sales volumes in July 2021, with falls reported in each of its sub-sectors.

Food store sales volumes fell by 1.5% in July 2021, following an increase of 3.9% in the previous month when sales were positively boosted by the start of the Euro 2020 football championship.

Sales volumes also fell over the month in clothing stores and household goods stores (both negative 2.0%) while sales volumes for department stores were the only sector to show an increase over the month at 0.2%.

Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 2.9% over the month, its first monthly fall since February 2021. With heavy rainfall in early July impacting road traffic volumes, automotive fuel sales volumes are now 6.7% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic February 2020 levels.

Table 1 provides more details of what happened in the retail sales industry in July 2021 with both value and volume growth rates.

Retail sales volumes over the last three months are up 11.1% on a year earlier, while July 2021 volumes are 2.4% higher than the same period last year. However, percentage change over the past year should be interpreted with caution because of base effects;  lower than normal retail sales in mid-2020, impacted by store closures, social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions.

More about economy, business and jobs

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3. Retail sales by sector

Food stores

Food store sales volumes fell by 1.5% in July 2021, following an increase of 3.9% in the previous month when sales were positively boosted by the start of the Euro 2020 football championship.

This fall is broadly in line with data on UK spending on debit and credit cards, based on CHAPS payments made by credit and debit card payment processors, which also reported a fall in spending on staples (such as food) between June and July alongside an increase in social spending (such as eating out and takeaways), which may be linked to the further lifting of hospitality restrictions in July.

Food store sales volumes are still 4.9% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels in February 2020.

Non-food stores

Non-food stores as a whole saw monthly sales volumes fall by 4.4% in July 2021. Despite this fall, sales volumes are still 5.9% higher than the same period last year and 0.4% above their pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in February 2020.

Other non-food stores (such as chemists, toy stores and sports equipment stores) reported a monthly fall in sales volumes of 10.1% in July 2021, its first fall over the month since February 2021. This monthly fall was driven by falls in second-hand goods stores and computer and telecoms equipment stores.

The Bank of England Agents' summary of business conditions for Quarter 2 (April to June 2021) notes that transportation delays have resulted in shortages of some items, such as electrical goods.

Clothing and household goods stores both reported monthly declines of 2.0% while department stores were the only store sector to report monthly growth (0.2%).

Non-store retailing (retailers with no physical store presence)

Non-store retailers reported a monthly increase of 0.5% in July 2021. Sales remain much higher than their pre-pandemic level, with volumes in July 2021 being 40.4% higher than in February 2020.

Automotive fuel

Automotive fuel sales volumes fell by 2.9% in July 2021 when compared with the previous month, its first monthly fall since February 2021. Analysis of Department for Transport (DfT) (non-seasonally adjusted) road traffic data reported falls in the volume of motor vehicle traffic during early July because of heavy rainfall resulting in flooding in some areas. Automotive fuel sales volumes are now 6.7% lower than February 2020, before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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4. Online retail

Table 2 shows the month-on-month and month-on-year earlier (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 indicate where money is spent online (for example, 9.1 pence in every pound spent online was spent on department stores in 2020).

Online spending values increased in July 2021 by 0.3% when compared with June 2021, driven by department stores (13.1%) and food stores (4.5%).

This resulted in a slight increase in the proportion of online retail spending values, which increased to 27.9% in July 2021, from 27.1% in June. This remains higher than the proportion of online retail spending in February 2020 (pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic) of 19.8%.

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5. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 20 August 2021
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 20 August 2021
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 20 August 2021
Internet sales in Great Britain by store type, month and year.

Retail Sales Index categories and their percentage weights
Dataset | Released 20 August 2021
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 impact of price changes.

Seasonally adjusted

Seasonally adjusted estimates are derived by estimating and removing calendar effects (for example, Easter moving between March and June) and seasonal effects (for example, increased spending in December as a result 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

Quality

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Retail Sales QMI.

Seasonal adjustment

All seasonal adjustment parameters for our volume and value data, for all businesses and internet data time series, up to July 2021 have been reviewed. Many series are impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19)-related actions in July 2021 and previous months. Each series has been reviewed and the best adjustment for coronavirus-related effects applied. These may need to be revised further as additional data become available.

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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 compilation 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 policy-making.

Comparability with international data

The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for July 2021 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 17 August 2021. In its advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, July 2021 (PDF, 320KB) they include 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).

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, 486KB) across the European Union on 4 August 2021 for June 2021. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU27 when compared with May 2021.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Rhys Lewis
retail.sales.enquiries@ons.gov.uk
Ffôn: +44 1633 455602