Retail sales, Great Britain: November 2019

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

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Email Charlee Humphries

Dyddiad y datganiad:
19 December 2019

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
17 January 2020

1. Main points

  • In the three months to November 2019, the quantity bought in retail sales decreased by 0.4% when compared with the previous three months; this is the first decline since April 2018.

  • The quantity bought in November 2019 fell by 0.6% when compared with the previous month, with only household goods stores reporting growth.

  • Year-on-year growth in the quantity bought increased by 1.0% in November 2019; this is the lowest growth since April 2018, owing to a decline of 1.1% in non-food stores.

  • In 2019, the official Black Friday was on 29 November and outside our November reporting period, which covers four weeks from 27 October to 23 November; our seasonally adjusted estimates account for this shift in timing.

  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing was 18.7% in November 2019, compared with the 19.1% reported in October 2019.

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2. Retail sales in November

In November 2019, both the amount spent and the quantity bought in the retail industry fell by 0.3% and 0.4%, when compared with the previous three months (Table 1).

The monthly picture was also one of declines, with both the amount spent and quantity bought falling by 0.5% and 0.6% respectively.

In contrast, when compared with a year earlier, both the amount spent and quantity bought reported growth of 1.3% and 1.0% respectively in November 2019.

Figure 1 shows the monthly growth rate against the three-month on three-month trend.

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. While both series show a general increase in retail sales, the monthly path shows more volatility than the smoother three-month on three-month series until recent months where both series remain flat.

There has been a slowdown in the rate of growth in recent months, with October 2019 increasing at just 0.1%. November 2019 saw a decline of 0.4%; this is the first decline since April 2018, which reported a fall of 0.2%.

In November 2019, food stores was the only main sector to see growth (0.5%) in the three-month on three-month series (Table 2).

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3. Sector summary

Looking at the three-month on three-month movement for each sector, food stores saw moderate growth for both the amount spent and quantity bought at 0.7% and 0.5% respectively.

Within non-food stores, the slight growths in department stores and household goods stores were offset by stronger declines in other stores, resulting in an overall decline of 0.4% for the amount spent and 0.3% in the quantity bought. Clothing stores declined in the amount spent and remained flat in the quantity bought.

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4. Year-on-year contributions to growth by sector

The contribution to year-on-year growth to November 2019, for both the amount spent at 1.3 percentage points and the quantity bought at 1.0 percentage points, can be seen in Figure 2.

Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the year-on-year growth, with the quantity bought and amount spent both at 0.9 percentage points. Food stores also reported a contribution of 0.9 percentage points to the amount spent but a more modest contribution of 0.2 percentage points for the quantity bought.

In contrast, non-food stores were the smallest contributors to growth in the amount spent and the quantity bought, at negative 0.5 percentage points.

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5. Month-on-month contributions to growth by sector

Figure 3 displays the contribution by sector to month-on-month growth, with the amount spent and quantity bought both at negative 0.5 and 0.6 percentage points respectively.

Fuel stores were the largest negative contributors to the amount spent, at negative 0.2 percentage points. Non-food stores was the only main sector not to contribute negatively to the amount spent in November 2019 but remained flat.

All sectors contributed negatively to the quantity bought with non-store retailing and food stores both contributing the largest fall, at 0.2 percentage points.

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6. The treatment of Black Friday

In 2019, the official Black Friday was on 29 November; this is six days after the end of our November reporting period, which covers four weeks from 27 October to 23 November. The official Black Friday date will fall into our December release with only early promotions captured in our November estimates. We talk more about our approach for the treatment of Black Friday in Wrapping up ‘Black Friday’: How the ONS captures the effect of a major shopping trend.

We regularly look closely at our seasonal adjustment approach to ensure we capture any changes in spending owing to seasonal activity. We want to estimate and remove seasonal spending so we can show the underlying changes in the economy.

In recent years, Black Friday has become a regular occurrence, and for some series there is evidence of a changed seasonal pattern. As this pattern is emerging for some series, it is important to review our seasonal adjustment as new data potentially affected by Black Friday become available. We have therefore carried out a dynamic seasonal adjustment review this month to assess whether our usual adjustment method accurately captures this change in activity. For example, stores that typically encourage more spending with Black Friday promotions were more affected by the loss of spending in the six-day run up to 29 November than stores that do not tend to carry out promotions.

The retail sector is diverse, and not all sectors within retail were affected by promotional sales in the same way. Essential items bought within supermarkets and petrol stations are less likely to have a “Black Friday effect”.

Store sectors where the timing of Black Friday was statistically significant in November 2019 owing to the shift in timing related to Black Friday are:

  • alcoholic drinks, beverages and tobacco
  • electrical household appliances
  • furniture, lighting and household articles
  • watches and jewellery
  • music, video recordings and equipment
  • mail order houses (including internet retailers)

Each store type has a different impact on the overall estimate. By treating sectors individually, we ensure we have the best estimate of underlying activity.

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7. Online sales

Table 3 shows the month-on-month and year-on-year growth rates for online retailing, by sector, in addition to the proportion of online sales to all retail sales. The percentage weights indicate where money is spent online.

Internet sales increased by 2.6% for the amount spent in November 2019, when compared with November 2018. The largest growth of 8.9% was reported in the non-store retailing sector. In contrast, non-food stores reported a fall of 4.9%, with department stores reporting the largest fall within the sector of 17.0%, continuing the decline witnessed in the second half of 2019.

The monthly picture displays a fall in the amount spent online at negative 2.6%, with both food stores and all non-food stores reporting monthly falls of 1.8% and 4.8% respectively.

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing was 18.7% in November 2019, compared with the 19.1% reported in October 2019.

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8. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 19 December 2019
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 December 2019
Total sales and average weekly spending estimates for each retail sector in Great Britain in British pounds thousands.

Retail Sales Index internet sales
Dataset | Released 19 December 2019
Internet sales in Great Britain by store type, month and year.

Retail Sales Index categories and their percentage weights
Dataset | Released 19 December 2019
Retail sales categories and descriptions and their percentage of all retailing in Great Britain.

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9. 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 April) and seasonal effects (for example, increased spending in December as a result of Christmas) from the non-seasonally adjusted 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 of non-store retailing is made up of online retailers, it also includes other retailers such as stalls and markets.

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10. Measuring the data

This bulletin presents estimates of the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in the retail industry for the four-week period 27 October 2019 to 23 November 2019.

Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

Retail sales collects turnover data from retailers, which is money through the till before any deductions, including refunded items. This provides us with the best indicator for consumer spending during the reference period.

The Retail Sales Index (RSI) measures the value and volume of retail sales in Great Britain on a monthly basis. Data are collected from 5,000 businesses in the retail industry, with all businesses employing over 100 people or with an annual turnover of more than £60 million receiving an online questionnaire every month. The survey’s results are used to produce seasonally adjusted monthly, quarterly and annual estimates of output in the retail industry at current price and at chained volume measures (removing the effect of price changes).


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

In the new year, with another full year’s data, we will be updating our commodity deflators to improve our estimates of volumes sold.

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11. 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 is widely used by private and public sector institutions, particularly by the Bank of England and HM Treasury to assist in informed decision-making and policymaking.

Comparability with international data

The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for October 2019 was published by the US Census Bureau on 15 November 2019. The Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services, October 2019 includes the amount spent in the US retail industry, including motor vehicles and parts and food services.

Eurostat also published its latest estimates of the Volume of retail trade across the EU on 5 December 2019 for October 2019. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU28 when compared with September 2019.

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.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

Charlee Humphries
Ffôn: +44 (0)1633 455602