Retail sales, Great Britain: November 2021

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

Nid hwn yw'r datganiad diweddaraf. Gweld y datganiad diweddaraf

Email Rhys Lewis

Dyddiad y datganiad:
17 December 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
21 January 2022

1. Main points

  • Retail sales volumes rose by 1.4% in November 2021 and were 7.2% higher than their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

  • Non-food stores sales volumes rose by 2.0% in November 2021, because of growth in clothing stores (2.9%) and other non-food stores (2.8%) such as computer stores, toy stores and jewellery stores, with retailers noting strong trading related to Black Friday and in the lead up to Christmas.

  • Clothing stores sales volumes in November 2021 were above pre-coronavirus levels for the first time; 3.2% above their level in February 2020.

  • Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 3.7% in November 2021 following some disruption to supplies in the previous two months; volumes were 1.9% below their February 2020 levels.

  • Food store sales volumes fell by 0.2% in November 2021; despite the fall in November, volumes were 3.2% above levels in February 2020.

  • The proportion of retail sales online fell to 26.9% in November 2021, its lowest proportion since March 2020 (22.6%) and a continuation of a falling trend since its peak in February 2021 (36.8%).

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2. Retail sales in November

Retail sales volume grew by 1.4% in November following a revised 1.1% growth in October (revised up from 0.8%).

The reporting period for the November publication covers 31 October to 27 November 2021. The official Black Friday day of promotion was on 26 November and is included in our reference period. Cyber Monday, however, will be included in December’s release as it took place on 29 November. Our estimates are seasonally adjusted, which means they account for seasonal effects such as Black Friday or increased spending over Christmas – see Section 5 for more detail.

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3. Month on month contribution to growth by sector

Figure 2 displays the contributions to the 1.4% month-on-month growth in overall retail sales volumes (quantity bought) in November 2021. This highlights that food stores were the only main retail sector with a negative contribution to growth between October and November.

Table 1 provides a snapshot of the retail sales industry in November 2021 with both value and volume growth rates.

Retail sales volumes grew by 1.4% in November 2021, following upwardly revised growth of 1.1% in October. Over the three months to November 2021, they fell by 0.6% when compared with the previous three months. Compared with the same period a year earlier, sales volumes over the last three months rose by 0.5%. However, percentage change over the past year should be interpreted with caution given the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and base effects on growth rates.

Retail sales values, unadjusted for price changes, rose by 2.3% in November 2021, following an increase of 2.0% in October. Over the last three months to November 2021, the value of sales was up 5.1% on the same period a year earlier, reflecting an annual retail sales implied price deflator of 4.6%.

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4. Retail sales, selected sectors

Non-food stores

Non-food stores as a whole saw monthly sales volumes rise by 2.0% in November 2021 and were 6.7% above their pre-coronavirus levels in February 2020. Feedback from retailers noted strong trading related to Black Friday and in the lead up to Christmas.

Clothing stores reported an increase of 2.9% over the month to surpass their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) level for the first time. Sales volumes were 3.2% above levels in February 2020.

The sub-sector, other non-food stores, which includes retailers such as computer stores, toy stores and jewellery stores, reported a monthly rise in sales volumes of 2.8% in November 2021. Sales volumes were 20.6% above levels in February 2020.

Household goods stores sales volume rose by 1.2% but were 0.6% below their levels in February 2020.

Department stores sales volumes fell 0.2% over the month and were 3.4% below their levels in February 2020.

Automotive fuel

Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 3.7% in November to reach similar levels to those before the disruption to supply in September and October. However, they were 1.9% below pre-coronavirus levels in February 2020.

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5. Black Friday

Figure 5 shows spending in the retail industry from 2013 when Black Friday first became established in the UK.

Data supplied by our contributors show how seasonal the retail sales industry is, with large peaks occurring each December. We use seasonal adjustment methods to estimate for these regular impacts, including for recent events such as promotions as part of Black Friday sales. We therefore advise our users to focus on the seasonally adjusted estimates, which can allow for the evolving changes to consumer patterns over time.

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6. 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 indicate where money is spent online. For example, 9.1 pence in every pound spent online was spent in department stores in 2020.

Online spending values rose in November 2021 by 0.1% when compared with October 2021. Despite this small increase, the proportion of online sales fell to 26.9% in November 2021, from 27.3% in October. This is a continuation of a falling trend since its peak in February 2021 (36.8%).

While this is the lowest proportion of online retail spending since March 2020 (22.6%), it remains far higher than the proportion of online retail spending in February 2020, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which was 19.7%.

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7. Retail sales data

Retail Sales Index
Dataset | Released 17 December 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 17 December 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 17 December 2021
Internet sales in Great Britain by store type, month and year.

Retail Sales Index categories and their percentage weights
Dataset | Released 17 December 2021
Retail sales categories and descriptions and their percentage of all retailing in Great Britain.

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8. 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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9. Measuring the data


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


Revisions in this release are a result of:

  • late responses to survey returns replacing imputations, or revisions to original returns
  • revisions to seasonal-adjustment factors, which are re-estimated and reviewed every month

For further information on the revisions profile, please see the retail sales revisions triangles published on a one-month and three-month growth basis.

Seasonal adjustment

All seasonal-adjustment parameters for our volume and value data, for all businesses and internet-data time series, up to November 2021 have been reviewed. Many series are affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)-related actions in November 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.

Economic statistics governance after EU exit

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, new governance arrangements are being put in place that will support the adoption and implementation of high-quality standards for UK economic statistics. These governance arrangements will promote international comparability and add to the credibility and independence of the UK’s statistical system.

At the centre of this new governance framework will be the new National Statistician’s Committee for Advice on Standards for Economic Statistics (NSCASE). NSCASE will support the UK by ensuring its processes for influencing and adopting international statistical standards are world leading. The advice NSCASE provides to the National Statistician will span the full range of domains in economic statistics, including the National Accounts, fiscal statistics, prices, trade and the balance of payments and labour-market statistics.

Making our published spreadsheets accessible

In line with Government Statistical Service (GSS) guidance on releasing statistics in spreadsheets, we have updated the main reference tables. The data are currently still available in the previous format, published as a supporting file. Alongside the internet reference tables, we have published a sample version in an accessible format.

If you have any questions or comments, please email

Use of Value Added Tax data in retails sales statistics

We have previously outlined plans to incorporate Value Added Tax (VAT) data to measure monthly retail sales alongside a rationalised Monthly Business Survey (MBS) as part of our transformation of short-term turnover statistics. Transformation of data collection systems has progressed to the stage where, in early 2022, we expect to transfer production of the statistics to our new Statistical Production Platform (SPP). This will be a positive step forward to ensure that our systems are kept efficient, while retaining consistency of retail sales data.

However, at that stage we will not be including VAT data in place of survey data in the production of retail sales statistics. This is because methodological work has confirmed that timeliness of that data, especially during times of shock such as the one seen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, could result in poorer initial estimates and larger subsequent revisions. Work will continue to assess the potential for future incorporation of VAT data in retail sales and our other short-term statistics.

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10. 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.

The latest comparisons of month on same month a year ago should be treated with caution given the impact of base effects on growth rates because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic throughout 2020. Such comparisons and growth rates can nonetheless be found in our accompanying dataset.

Comparability with international data

The most recent international estimate of retail sales available for November 2021 was published by the United States Census Bureau on 15 December 2021. In their Advanced monthly sales for retail and food services, November 2021 (PDF, 354KB), 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 across the EU on 3 December 2021 for October 2021. This shows the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade in both the euro area (EA19) and EU27 when compared with September 2021.

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