News | Published March 21 2019

ONS: Retail sales rise but food sales fall by biggest margin since December 2016

The Office for National Statistics have released their retail figures for February 2019, showing that retail sales rose by 0.4 per cent but food sales declined by 1.2 per cent.

This fall in food sales is the biggest drop since December 2016.

In the three months leading up to February 2019, the quantity bought by consumers increased by 0.7 per cent with significant growth in non-store retailing and fuel. 

The monthly growth rate increased by 0.4 per cent. In terms of annual growth, quantity bought has increased b 4.0 per cent since February of last year. These figures show growth in all main sectors, with the only subsection showing decline being household goods stores which declined by 1.3 per cent.

Online sales fell slightly from the previous month, declining from 18.8 per cent to 17.6 per cent. This is still, however, a 9.4 per cent increase when compared to February 2018.

In terms of money spent, February 2019 saw an increase of 4.3 per cent compared to the previous year across the retail sector. February also saw a 0.6 per cent increase from January’s figures.

The 1.2 per cent decline in food sales was the biggest monthly decline since December 2016 when a decline of 1.5 per cent was recorded. 

This fall reversed the 0.9 increase that was reported in January. Alcohol stores saw the largest monthly decline in terms of quantity bought, falling by 5.3 per cent. The ONS also found that most food sales take place in supermarkets, with nearly 36 pence of every pound being spent in these stores. 

Supermarkets have suggested that this fall was attributed to “going back to normal” following the January sales and promotions.

As reported by the BBC, unusually warm weather in February has been identified as the cause for this growth in retail sales, as spending in garden centres and on sporting equipment increased.

Paul Dales, the chief UK economist at Capital Economics, reacted to this growth by stating: “With just eight days to go until Brexit and the uncertainty higher than ever, it is reassuring that in February households increased their spending at a decent rate.” 

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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
March 21 2019

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