More glitter than gloom for retail
Sales figures are not adjusted for inflation. Given that both the October SPI (BRC) and September CPI (ONS) show inflation running at historically high levels, the small rise in sales masked a much larger drop in volumes once inflation is accounted for.
Covering the four weeks 2 – 29 October 2022
- On a Total basis, sales increased by 1.6% in October, against an increase of 1.3% in October 2021. This is below the 3-month average of 1.7% and the 12-month average growth of 2.7%.
- UK retail sales increased 1.2% on a Like-for-like basis from October 2021, when they had decreased by 0.2%. This was in line with the 3-month average growth of 1.2% and above the 12-month average growth of 1.0%.
- Over the three months to October, Food sales increased 5.1% on a Total basis and 4.7% on a Like-for-like basis. This is above the 12-month Total average growth of 1.5%. For the month of October, Food was in growth year-on-year.
- Over the three-months to October, Non-Food retail sales decreased by 1.2% on a Total basis and 1.8% on a like-for-like basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 3.7%. For the month of October, Non-Food was in decline year-on-year.
- Over the three months to October, In-Store sales of Non-Food items increased 1.3% on a Total basis and 0.4% on a Like-for-like basis since October 2021. This is below the 12-month growth of 32.5%.
- Online Non-Food sales decreased by 6.3% in October, against a decline of 8.0% in October 2021. This is below the 3-month average decline of 4.8% and above the 12-month decline of 13.6%.
- The Non-Food Online penetration rate decreased to 39.9% in October from 42.0% at the same point last year.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive | British Retail Consortium: “As the cost of living for consumers continued to rise, retail sales slowed in October. With November Black Friday sales just around the corner, many people look to be delaying spending, particularly on bigger purchases. Clothing and footwear, which saw stronger sales this year, declined as the mild weather meant customers held back on buying winter outfits. Meanwhile, electric blankets, air fryers and other energy efficient appliances continued to fly off the shelves as people sought future cost savings.”
“Christmas will come later than last year for many and may be more gloom than glitter as families focus on making ends meet, particularly as mortgage payments rise. Retailers hope the World Cup and Black Friday, will give sales a much-needed boost ahead of Christmas. However, with little sign of cost pressures easing, government action is needed to support households. Retailers face an additional government imposed £800m inflationary increase in their business rates bills next year so the government should freeze rates and reform the broken transitional relief system to alleviate cost pressures that are feeding through to higher prices at a time when people are least able to afford them.”
Paul Martin, UK head of retail | KPMG: “Despite the price of goods being higher than 2021, retail sales during October grew by just over 1% in value year on year. This increase is being driven by inflationary pressures and does not tell the true picture of sales volumes dropping as consumers purchase fewer products per shop.
“Sales across almost every category both online and in store fell year on year as consumers adjust to shrinking household incomes. Furniture, food and health products saved the day on the high street as consumers prepare for colder days at home. Online retailers saw sales decline in every category apart from furniture, as consumers head to the shops more frequently in search of bargains to manage daily expenditure.
“Retailers will be hedging their bets on a successful World Cup and Black Friday to boost sales during the crucial golden quarter. Given the economic headwinds, it is unlikely that the usual festive boost will be enough to counteract the ongoing issues that retailers face with rising costs, squeezed margins and falling demand. Many may feel that they have little choice but to reduce prices to hold onto customers but with their own inflationary pressures to contend with, bumper promotions before Christmas could damage already tight margins further. Whilst Christmas is by no means cancelled as consumers focus on one bright spot amongst the economic clouds, retailers are facing possibly their toughest festive season in a decade as shoppers look to trade down, search out bargains and purchase less to meet the economic challenges ahead.”
Food & drink sector performance | Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD: “October’s food and drink sales were driven by inflation with volume sales over the period notably negative. Set against a turbulent backdrop with much uncertainty in both politics and the economy, shoppers are feeling cautious and are holding back their spending. The food industry will hope that upcoming events like the World Cup and Christmas will encourage shoppers to loosen the purse strings.
“In this environment, it’s little surprise that our Shopper Confidence Index remains historically low as shoppers contend with increased food prices, lower (real) wages and rising energy bills. More shoppers than ever are switching their focus to saving money on groceries – up to 47% compared to 26% in Oct ’21. Other tactics to save money include reducing spend on eating out with 70% doing this compared to 63% in May ’22 and more shoppers eating lower quality food (24% versus 17% in July ’22).”