UK retail sales fell 0.9% in August for the fourth consecutive month

UK retail sales fell 0.9% for the fourth consecutive month in August due to the supply chain crisis

  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales fell last month, after falling 2.8% in July
  • It is the first time since 1996 that retail sales have fallen for four months in a row
  • In the two weeks to August 22, about 6.5% of retailers said they were unable to get the materials, goods or services they needed


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UK retail sales beat expectations of an increase in August, falling 0.9 percent, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales fell last month, after falling 2.8 percent in July.

The successive declines came as a surprise to analysts, who had forecast a 0.7 percent rise for August. It is the first time since 1996 that retail sales have fallen for four months in a row.

UK retail sales beat expectations of an increase in August, falling 0.9 percent, new figures show

UK retail sales beat expectations of an increase in August, falling 0.9 percent, new figures show

Despite the bleak outlook, retail sales volumes remain 4.6 percent above pre-pandemic levels.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said of the newly published figures: “Sales fell again in August, although not nearly as much as in July, and generally remained above pre-pandemic levels.

“Other data suggests the decline in food store sales is linked to an increase in eating out after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

“Meanwhile, motor fuel sales increased over the month as people went out more, but they remained below pre-pandemic levels.”

Looking across sectors, food store sales fell 1.2 percent for the month, with many shoppers moving further back into pre-pandemic habits.

It’s because data from Open Table showed restaurant reservations surged last month as credit card providers highlighted an uptick in social spending.

Meanwhile, non-food stores reported a 1 percent drop in sales volumes, driven in part by department stores, which saw a 3.7 percent drop this month.

Motor fuel sales volumes rose 1.5 percent this month as people increasingly traveled, although this remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Food store sales fell 1.2 percent this month, with many shoppers reverting further to pre-pandemic habits

Food store sales fell 1.2 percent this month, with many shoppers reverting further to pre-pandemic habits

Food store sales fell 1.2 percent this month, with many shoppers reverting further to pre-pandemic habits

The ONS also highlighted that in the two weeks to August 22, about 6.5 percent of retailers said they were unable to get the materials, goods or services they needed due to ongoing supply chain challenges.

Department stores suffered the most with 18.3 percent of these troubled businesses, followed by clothing stores at 11.1 percent.

Another 8.9 percent were able to get what they needed but had to switch suppliers or find alternative solutions.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of food stores reported the same problem.

Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said these shortages were critical to the downward trend in retail across the board.

When it came to shopping habits, the share of online retail sales rose to 27.1 percent – compared to 19.7 percent before the pandemic

Looking to Erin Brookes, director of European retail and consumer practice at Alvarez & Marsal, said: “Today’s numbers should remind retailers to start planning for Christmas, which could be one of the most exciting ever, especially given last year’s restrictions.

“It will be critical to understand consumer demand and strengthen agile and responsive supply chains, which are only as strong as their weakest link.

“Despite the turbulent times, companies need to consider how they can strengthen and diversify their supply chains so that they not only focus on immediate problems, but also future-proof their business against long-term changes in consumer habits.”

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