22 Oct 2021

Decline in retail sales reported by ONS is 'disappointing', says Bira

The decline in retail sales reported by new research from the Office of National Statistics is 'disappointing', says Bira.

A summary of the new report for September 2021 says:

  • Retail sales volumes fell by 0.2% in September 2021, following an upwardly-revised 0.6% fall in August; despite the fall in September, volumes were 4.2% higher than their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic February 2020 levels
  • Non-food stores reported a fall of 1.4% in sales volumes in September 2021, because of falls in household goods stores (negative 9.3%), such as furniture and lighting stores, and other non-food stores (negative 1.7%) such as sports equipment stores.
  • Automotive fuel sales volumes rose by 2.9% in September 2021 as demand towards the end of September increased sales; volumes were 1.8% above their pre-pandemic February 2020 levels.
  • Food store sales volumes rose by 0.6% in September 2021 and were 3.9% above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in February 2020.
  • Despite relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in summer 2021, in-store retail sales remain subdued; the proportion of retail sales online rose to 28.1% in September 2021 from 27.9% in August, substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020 before the pandemic.

Andrew Goodacre, Bira CEO, said: "It is always disappointing to see retail sales declining, especially as we head into the busiest and most important time of the year. The current trends are a reflection of the fragile consumer confidence, caused by uncertainty – whether it is the availability of products or the rising number of Covid-19 cases.

"Online sales have risen, suggesting that safety fears are a concern for shoppers, and we need real clarity from the government on this.

"The high street and the wider UK economy need retailers to have strong final quarter and the Chancellor must address the fragile high street recovery in his forthcoming statement by reducing business rates permanently and significantly."

Read the full report here

Write to your MP ahead of Chancellor's Autumn Statement

Additional Guidance and Resources