United Kingdom: retail sales decline in August

Retail sales fell in August in the UK as the reopening of restaurants and bars weighed on food purchases while clothing sales were discouraged by the less summery weather.

Retail volume sales fell 0.9% in August over one month after already falling 2.8% in July (revised figure), but remained 4.6% higher than in February 2020, before the full impact of the pandemic, said the National Statistics Office on Friday.

Food sales fell 1.2% in August and non-food sales by almost the same, weighed down particularly by department stores, hardware and computer stores. Clothing purchases in particular suffered from the rainy weather.

On the other hand, gasoline purchases increased by 1.5% in August, with the British taking more holidays within the United Kingdom due to constraints on international travel, but remain slightly lower (1.2%) than their pre-pandemic level.

The share of online sales increased very slightly to 27.7% in August, settling permanently at a level much higher than before the pandemic (19.7%).

For Oliver Vernon-Harcourt, director of distribution for Deloitte, consumer behavior has stabilized relatively since the economy reopened and “what we are seeing is the new normal”.

This new state of affairs also includes brands which, to “attract consumers who are more attentive to the impact of their purchases”, are embarking on zero waste programs or social and environmental commitments.

The signs of “fast-fashion” Asos and Primark have made announcements in this direction in recent days.

In addition, faced with supply chain problems deplored throughout the distribution sector, Mr. Vernon-Harcourt warns of problems at Christmas: “there will most likely be shortages in certain categories which will force consumers to make different choices “.

“Retailers, especially grocers, will have to decide which products to put on their shelves, prioritizing higher margins” to manage the squeeze of “cost increases and inventory shortages,” he adds.

The ONS notes that a significant share of retailers (6.5%) were unable to obtain delivery of the goods they needed during the past two weeks, difficulties deplored by 18% of department stores.

Almost 9% of businesses also had to change suppliers in order to obtain the desired products, most notably food stores.

ats, awp, afp

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