Retail sales at lowest level since 2021 COVID lockdowns

Business

Retail sales took an unexpected fall last month, according to official figures suggesting a slump to COVID lockdown levels with only online operators seeing growth.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 0.3% decline overall in October 2023, following a fall of 1.1% in September.

A rise in volumes of 0.3% had been expected by economists.

Sales fell 1.1% in the three months to October when compared with the previous three months, the ONS added.

Its deputy director for surveys and economic indicators, Heather Bovill, said: “Retail sales fell again in October to their lowest level since February 2021 when widespread lockdown restrictions were in place.

“After rebounding in September, fuel sales dipped with increasing prices discouraging customers, while food sales also dropped as consumers prioritised essential goods.

“It was another poor month for household goods and clothes stores with these retailers reporting that cost-of-living pressures, reduced footfall and poor weather hit them hard.

“However, it was a better month for online retailers, the only main sector to report growth in October.”

Their volumes were 0.8% higher on the previous month, the data showed.

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