New Year joy for retail
The pandemic has meant much of retail bounced between being open and closed, significantly impacting sales and changing consumer behaviours. In January 2021, non-essential retail stores were closed, pushing many consumers to buy goods online. In this context, while all comparisons are provided on a year-on-year (YoY) basis, those focused on online/in-store have also been compared with January 2020 (Yo2Y). This will be clearly signposted below.
Sales figures are not adjusted for inflation. Given that both the January SPI (BRC) and December CPI (ONS) show inflation running at historically high levels, a portion of the sales growth will be a reflection of rising prices rather than increased volumes.
Covering the four weeks 2 – 29 January 2022
- On a Total basis, sales increased by 11.9% in January, against a decline of 1.3% in January 2021. This is above the 3-month average growth of 6.0% and the 12-month average growth of 10.9%.
- on a two-year basis, Total retail sales grew 7.5% (Yo2Y) during January compared with the same month in 2020.
- UK retail sales increased 8.1% on a Like-for-like basis from January 2021, when they had increased 7.1%. This was above the 3-month average growth of 3.3% and below the 12-month average growth of 9.0%.
- Over the three months to January, Food sales decreased 0.1% on a Total basis and 0.5% on a Like-for-like basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 2.4%. For the single month of January, Food was in decline year-on-year.
- Over the three-months to January, Non-Food retail sales increased by 11.1% on a Total basis and by 6.5% on a Like-for-like basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 18.0%. For the single month of January, Non-Food was in growth year-on-year.
- Over the three months to January, In-Store sales of Non-Food items grew 67.6% on a Total basis and 54.0% on a Like-for-like basis. This was above the Total 12-month average growth of 51.1%.
- On a two-year comparison, over the three months to January, In-Store sales of Non-Food items declined 7.5% (Yo2Y) on a Total basis. This is worse than the 2019 Total average decline of 3.1%.
- Online Non-Food sales decreased by 24.2% during January, compared with growth of 83.0% January 2021. This is a decline from the 3-month decline of 18.3%.
- On a two-year comparison, Online Non-Food sales increased by 31.8% (Yo2Y) in January. This is above the 3-mth average increase of 24.8%.
- Non-Food Online penetration rate decreased to 41.5% in January from 66.2% in January 2021. However, it was up 10.3 percentage points on the 31.2% seen at the same point in 2020.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive | British Retail Consortium: “It is encouraging to see such strong sales in January, even once inflation has been accounted for. Food sales were more muted than in previous months, as people went back to eating out more often. Consumers prioritised home purchases, boosting the sale of household appliances, electronics and homeware. In what may be signs of a return to pre-pandemic trends, furniture was the stand-out performer in January, after transport delays in the Christmas period began to ease.
“Retailers and consumers face challenges in the coming months. Retailers face competition from other spending opportunities as the public flood back to restaurants, cafes and live events. Furthermore, rising inflation, driven by higher costs of production, higher energy and transport prices, as well as other looming price hikes this Spring will mean consumers will have to tighten their purse strings.”
Paul Martin, UK head of retail | KPMG: “Retailers will be relieved that we started the year without further lockdowns as consumer demand continued strongly on the high street with sales up 11.9% on last year. However, this unusually strong performance for January which is traditionally a slower month, should be put in the context of last year’s lockdown restrictions.
“Footwear, furniture and jewellery saw strong sales growth in stores whilst spending on food and drink, toys and computing all fell during January.
“Unsurprisingly, online sales were down across all categories compared to January 2021, with items for the home seeing the biggest fall in sales volumes.
“With Covid restrictions now eased, and people heading back to workplaces, retailers will be hoping consumer confidence remains robust to help offset the rising cost challenges that they are likely to experience for a while. We could see a challenging few months ahead if wider macroeconomic conditions start to squeeze household incomes to the point that they start cutting back on retail spending. Retailers are facing their own inflationary pressures and will need to take tough decisions on whether and how to pass on the increase costs they have been sitting on for some time to consumers facing their own financial challenges. We could easily see the health of the sector start to deteriorate if consumers choose to sit on savings to weather the storm.”
Food & Drink sector performance | Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD: “After a welcome uptick in food and drink sales at Christmas, 2022 has started on a downbeat note with sales struggling to match those of January 2021. Although it was always going to be a hard benchmark as we were in the peak of a third national lockdown in January last year, with food and drink sales surging as a result.
“Following the respite of Christmas celebrations, the new year has brought increased shopper anxiety and IGD’s Shopper Confidence Index reached its lowest level since the index started in 2013. With the cost of living rising at its fastest rate in 30 years, our ShopperVista insight reveals that 89% of shoppers expect food to get more expensive in the year ahead. Coupled with the energy price cap set to rise sharply from April, some 39% of shoppers expect to be worse off financially in the year ahead, up 8% from last month. Therefore, we can expect more shoppers to increasingly focus on tightening their spending in the months ahead.”