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Retail Sales growth slows to lowest rate since April 2018

The ONS has reported on retail sales for the month of October (four-week period 29 September 2019 to 26 October 2019) and the three months to October.

Key Points

  • In the three months to October 2019, the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 0.2% when compared with the previous three months; this is the lowest growth since April 2018.
  • Food stores were the only main sector to see growth (0.8%) in the three-month on three-month series.
  • The quantity bought in October 2019 fell by 0.1% when compared with the previous month, with only fuel and department stores reporting growth.
  • Year-on-year growth in the quantity bought increased by 3.1% in October 2019, with growth across all sectors except household goods stores.
  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing increased to 19.2% in October 2019, from the 19.0% reported in September 2019

In October 2019, both the amount spent and the quantity bought in the retail industry reported growth of 3.3% and 3.1% respectively when compared with a year earlier.

Comparing the three months to October with the previous three months, the amount spent increased by 0.4%, while the quantity bought increased by 0.2%.  In contrast, the monthly picture reported a slight fall of 0.1% for both the amount spent and quantity bought.

The quantity bought in retail sales decreased by -0.1% in October 2019 when compared with September 2019, with decreases in all store types except department and fuel stores.

The figures indicate that shoppers have cut back on spending, prompting further fears that the economy is slowing.

Department Stores:

Displaying a different picture to all other sectors, except fuel, department stores have reported their strongest month-on-month growth this year at 2.0% for the quantity bought. This is the biggest monthly growth witnessed since May 2018 (2.9%) and is opposed to the general downward trend for the sector.

The year-on-year measure also reports growth of 0.2% in October, this is the first year-on-year growth since April of this year, following five months of falls.

Feedback from retailers suggested that increased promotions had boosted performance. There was also evidence of retailers bringing forward the sale of Christmas product lines to earlier in November than in previous years.

However, the three-month on the same period a year earlier continues to show the underlying struggles faced by stores in this sector with a fall of -1.7% in October, the eighth consecutive monthly fall for this measure.


Internet sales increased by 8.8% for the amount spent in October 2019 when compared with October 2018, with all sectors reporting growth except “other stores”. The decline of 1.6% for “other stores” contrasts with strong growth of 23.0% in the previous year; this was an unusually large growth in October 2018.

The monthly picture displays growth in the amount spent online at 0.8%, with a strong growth of 6.0% reported in household goods. However, falls in growth were reported in the food and clothing sectors.

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing increased to 19.2% in October 2019, from the 19.0% reported in September 2019. This proportion has increased one percentage point from the 18.2% reported in October 2018.

The ONS said: “All main sectors saw falling sales apart from food shops.

“Department store sales rebounded in October, driven by promotional events and an earlier introduction of Christmas lines.

“However, their sales still remain significantly down over the longer term.”

Source : Insight DIY Team and ONS

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