September retail sales: Shoppers switch from home improvements to fashion makeovers but overall sales fall

·     Retail sales volumes fell by 0.2% in September 2021, when compared with August 2021, but were 4.2% higher than in February 2020, before the impact of coronavirus

·    Retail sales volumes over the last three months fell by 3.9% when compared to the previous three months, partly because of strong sales in April when non-essential retailing re-opened. This is the first fall in the three-month-on-three-month series since March 2021.

·     Clothing and department stores reported an increase in monthly sales volume of 4.3% and 0.2%. Sales volumes were 5.5% and 5.1% below their pre-pandemic February levels.

·      Household goods stores sales volumes fell by 9.3% largely due to a fall of 14.8% in furniture and lighting stores and  were 1.0% below their levels in February 2020.

The ONS retail sales update for September has been released – Retail sales, Great Britain – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown comments:

There was a September surge in clothing sales, as shoppers back from staycations revamped their wardrobes ready for an Autumn of socialising. With all restrictions on partying dropped, consumers splashed out on styles to go out out once again. More staff have hot footed it back to the office after an 18 month break, so it’s likely revamping work wardrobes was also a priority.

It will come as a relief for many fashion retailers, particularly those focused on formal and occasion wear, as our penchant for slouching around in leggings and tracksuits had hit hard. In this strive for self-improvement, spending has moved away from home-improvement, with furniture and lighting sales in particular falling off dramatically. We are clearly fed up with staring at four walls, however beautifully adorned.

But the surge in fashion sales weren’t enough to stop an overall drop in retail sales of  0.2% in September. Shoppers were more cautious, amid a surge in energy costs, with warnings that higher prices are on the way. This is yet another sign that the economic recovery tailed off in September, with confidence ebbing away among consumers.

The snap back in sales in bricks and mortar stores has also faded, with the novelty of a trip to the high street wearing off. More of us have gone back to our pandemic habits of ordering with an on screen click rather than a trip to the shops. 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.’’



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