Follow us


Retail sales slide in November as high street stores hit by lockdown
18 December 2020

UK retail sales volumes declined in November as stores were forced to temporarily close during England’s second national lockdown, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes fell -3.8% last month compared with October.

However, the ONS said overall sales remained above pre-pandemic levels amid continued strong growth in online sales.

It was above the expectations of analysts, who had forecast a -4.1% slump in retail sales for month.

Lower clothing sales were a significant factor contributing to the slump, the ONS said, tumbling by 19% compared with the previous month.

In November, food and household goods were the only sectors to show growth in monthly volume of sales, with improvements of 3.1% and 1.6% respectively as stores remained open due to essential status.

The ONS said retailers suggested that food sales in November were boosted by restrictions to hospitality operators such as bars and restaurants.

Online sales continued to surge as consumers completed Christmas shopping digitally while stores were shut, with online sales 74.7% higher than the same month last year.

Deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: “After a run of strong growth, retail sales fell back in November as restrictions meant many stores had to close their doors again.

Clothing and fuel were particularly hit by the winter lockdown, with their sales falling sharply.

“Household goods and food shops were the only areas to see their monthly sales increase, with feedback from stores suggesting consumers brought forward their Christmas spending, particularly on festive home products and DIY.

“Food sales, especially click and collect, were boosted as people were not able to eat out.”

Commenting on today’s figures, Karen Johnson, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “The first nationwide lockdown in Spring wasn’t a good period for UK retail, with many bricks and mortar shops forced to close their doors and large chunks of consumer spending dropping away. However, November’s ONS Retail figures show that the second national lockdown was a lot kinder to retailers this time round.

“With all non-essential shops allowed to stay open, and the popularity of online sales continuing, sales figures were up year-on-year. Early Christmas spending may have helped drive some of this growth, whilst the public (unable to spend on hospitality and leisure activities) also took advantage of sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

"Looking ahead it will be interesting to see what December’s figures tell us about the overall story of Christmas spending. The UK retail industry will certainly be hoping that it isn’t just three wise men who have been purchasing gifts this December…”

Free NewsletterVISIT