Retail sales volumes are estimated to have risen by 0.3% in May 2023, following a rise of 0.5% in April 2023 (unrevised from our previous publication).
Non-store retailing sales volumes rose by 2.7% in May 2023 because of strong sales by online retailers selling outdoor-related goods and summer clothing; this was boosted by the warm weather in the second half of the month.
Automotive fuel stores sales volumes rose by 1.7% in May 2023, following a fall of 1.7% in April 2023; sales volumes were 9.5% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.
Food stores sales volumes fell by 0.5% in May 2023, with some anecdotal evidence of increased spending on takeaways and fast food because of the extra bank holiday, however retailers also indicated that increased cost of living and food prices continued to affect sales volumes.
Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 0.2% in May 2023, following a rise of 0.9% in April.
|Most recent month on a year earlier||Most recent 3 months on a year earlier||Most recent month on previous month||Most recent 3 months on previous 3 months||May 2023 compared with February 2020|
|Value (amount spent)||4.8||4.1||0.6||1.1||17.0|
|Volume (quantity bought)||-2.1||-3.3||0.3||0.3||-0.8|
|Value (excluding automotive fuel)||7.7||6.3||0.8||2.2||18.5|
|Volume (excluding automotive fuel)||-1.7||-3.1||0.1||0.5||0.2|
Download this table Table 1: Main retail figures.xls .csv
Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in May 2023, with both volume and value growth rates.
The reporting period for this bulletin covers 30 April to 27 May 2023, so it includes the early May bank holiday on 1 May 2023 and the bank holiday for the coronation of King Charles III on 8 May, but excludes the spring bank holiday on 29 May 2023.
As a one-off event, the impact of the additional bank holiday on 8 May 2023 has not been removed from our seasonally adjusted estimates. This should be considered when interpreting the seasonally adjusted movements involving May 2023. More information on our seasonal adjustment approach is available in Section 7: Measuring the data.
Figure 1 shows the 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 17.0% higher in value terms, but volumes were 0.8% lower.
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Month-on-month contribution to growth by sector
Figure 2 shows the contributions to the 0.3% month-on-month rise in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in May 2023. Increases in non-store retailing and automotive fuel sales were partly offset by falls in food and non-food stores.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
Non-store retailing sales volumes rose by 2.7% in May 2023, following a rise of 0.8% in April 2023. This was because of strong sales by online retailers selling outdoor-related goods and summer clothing.
Feedback from retailers suggested that warm, sunny weather in the second half of the month helped boost sales.
Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 1.7% in May 2023, following a fall of 1.7% in April 2023. Despite this upturn, sales volumes were 9.5% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.
Some of the increase may be because of falling fuel prices. Our Consumer price inflation, UK: May 2023 bulletin reported that average fuel prices fell to their lowest level since February 2022.
Sales volumes in April 2023 may have also been partly affected by industrial action, impacting growth between April and May 2023. Our Public opinion and social trends bulletin for the period from 5 to 16 April reported that 39% of adults had been affected by industrial action in the last month. Among those affected by industrial action, 19% reported that they could not travel for holiday or leisure as planned in the period from 5 to 16 April.
We published our Public opinion and social trends bulletin for the period from 1 to 11 June on 16 June 2023.
Food stores sales volumes fell by 0.5% in May 2023, following a rise of 0.6% in April 2023, with some anecdotal evidence of increased spending on takeaways and fast food because of the extra bank holiday.
Some retailers indicated that increasing food prices may also explain some of the fall. For more information on this, please see our Consumer price inflation, UK: May 2023 bulletin. Food store sales volumes were 3.4% below their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.
Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 0.2% over the month.
Within non-food stores, the sub-sector other non-food stores fell 1.4% over the month because of falls in watches and jewellery stores (following strong growth in April 2023), and other retail sales of new goods, such as sales in art galleries.
Clothing stores sales volumes fell by 0.4%, while department stores sales volumes rose by 0.6%.
Household goods stores reported a monthly rise in sales volumes of 1.5% because of strong sales in DIY stores who reported that good weather boosted sales.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
|Category||Online sales as a proportion of retail in this sector||Online sales: Most recent month on a year earlier||Online sales: Most recent month on previous month||Index categories and their percentage weights|
|Textile, clothing and footwear stores||28.3||17.8||10.8||11.6|
|Household goods stores||23.5||-3.1||0.6||7.6|
Download this table Table 2: Summary of internet statistics.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, 7 pence in every pound spent online was spent in department stores in 2022.
Online spending values rose by 2.5% in May 2023 because of monthly increases across all store types except other non-food stores.
The proportion of online sales rose to 26.5% in May 2023 from 26.0% in April 2023, and has remained broadly consistent at around 26% since May 2022.
The proportion of retail sales taking place online remains above the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.7% in February 2020).Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 23 June 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 23 June 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 23 June 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.
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
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).
As part of our usual seasonal adjustment practice, prior adjustments are made for calendar effects (when they are statistically significant), such as regular bank holidays, Easter and the day of the week on which Christmas occur. Adjustments for repeating and predictable effects are estimated and removed from the final seasonally adjusted series, for example a permanent change in the seasonal pattern.
While the bank holiday on 1 May 2023 is a regular bank holiday, the bank holiday for the coronation of King Charles III on 8 May was not a regular bank holiday, so there is not an explicit adjustment to account for it as part of the seasonal adjustment process.
There may be some impact on our estimates in May 2023 because of this. This is an ad hoc effect, so it does not get removed from our seasonally adjusted estimates.
Revisions in this release are a result of:
improvements following our annual seasonal adjustment review, which have been implemented in this release
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 May 2023 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 15 June 2023. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services May 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 1 (Jan to Mar) 2023 was published on 15 June 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 across the EU on 6 June 2023 for April 2023. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and the European Union (EU27), when compared with March 2023.Nôl i'r tabl cynnwys
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