Thursday, September 20, 2012
Retail sales - no Olympic gold medal
Posted by David Smith at 10:00 AM
Category: Thoughts and responses

Retail sales volumes slipped by 0.2% last month, which was slightly less than expected, but suggesting there was no Olympic boost for retailers. The effect, however, seems to have been mainly on online sales - people watched the Olympics and Paralympics rather than clicking and shopping.

So, clothing and footwear sales rose by 1.6% on the month, partly as a result of aggressive discounting, food sales also rose, while there were 2.7% drops in household goods sales and 6.7% in non-store retailing. The percentage of retailing online droppped from 9% to 8.1%.

However there was also a positive Games effect. According to the Office for National Statistics: "The largest contribution to growth in the non-food sector came from the other stores category in particular sporting goods and toys. Feedback from these stores suggests that sales were boosted by an increase in sales of football shirts with the start of the new season and the European Championship but also from increased sales as a result of the Olympics."

Overall, the sales picture over the past 12 months looks surprisingly healthy given the squeeze on real incomes, with a rise of 2.7% in volumes in August compared with August 2011, 3.1% excluding petrol and diesel sales. Non-food sales rose by a very strong 5% in volume terms.

There's a note of caution, of course. This year there are Olympic/Paralympic distortions, last year we had the riots in London and other cities (though retail sales fell by only 0.6% on the month). We will get a better picture in the run-up to Christmas. More here.