Business NewsUK Statistics

Retail Sales: February 2016

1.Main points

Year-on-year estimates of the quantity bought in the retail industry showed growth for the 34th consecutive month in February 2016, increasing by 3.8% compared with February 2015. 

The underlying pattern in the data, as suggested by the 3 month on 3 month movement in the quantity bought, showed growth for the 27th consecutive month, increasing by 0.8%.

Compared with January 2016, the quantity bought in the retail industry is estimated to have decreased by 0.4%.

Average store prices (including petrol stations) fell by 2.5% in February 2016 compared with February 2015, the 20th consecutive month of year-on-year price falls.

The amount spent in the retail industry increased by 1.4% compared with February 2015 and decreased by 0.7% compared with January 2016.

The value of online sales increased by 12.3% in February 2016 compared with February 2015 and decreased by 1.0% compared with January 2016.

Revisions to this release were caused by the incorporation of late data. The earliest revisions point for current price, non-seasonally adjusted data was February 2015. More information on revisions can be found in the background notes. 

2.About this release

This bulletin presents estimates of the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in the retail industry for the period 31 January 2016 to 27 February 2016. Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

The estimates in this release are based on a monthly survey of 5,000 retailers, including all large retailers employing 100 people or more and those with annual turnover of greater than £60 million who employ 10 to 99 people. It is estimated that this survey covers approximately 95% of all known retail turnover in Great Britain. 

The quality of the estimate of retail sales

Retail sales estimates are produced from the monthly business survey – Retail Sales Inquiry (RSI). The timeliness of these retail sales estimates, which are published just 3 weeks after the end of each month, makes them an important early economic indicator. The industry as a whole is used as an indicator of how the wider economy is performing and the strength of consumer spending. Results are revised for the previous 13 published periods. More information about the data content for this release can be found in the background notes. 

Revisions are an inevitable consequence of the trade-off between timeliness and accuracy. The response rate in February 2016 was 66.2% of questionnaires, accounting for 94.7% of registered turnover in the retail industry. Therefore, the estimate is subject to revisions as more data become available. 

All estimates, by definition, are subject to statistical uncertainty and for the retail sales index we publish the standard error associated with the non-seasonally adjusted estimates of year-on-year and month-on-month growth in the quantity bought as a measure of accuracy. More information on these standard errors can be found in the background notes and in the quality tables of this release. 

We are continually working on methodological changes to improve the accuracy of the retail sales estimates; progress on these can be found on the continuous improvement page.

The datasets offer different ways to access the data, they include:

  • non-seasonally adjusted and seasonally adjusted volume and value indexes by industry
  • year-on-year and month-on-month growth rates by industry  

3.Main figures

At a glance

In February 2016: the quantity bought in the retail industry (volume):

  • increased by 3.8% compared with February 2015
  • decreased by 0.4% compared with January 2016

the amount spent (value):

  • increased by 1.4% compared with February 2015
  • decreased by 0.7% compared with January 2016

Amount spent in the retail industry

In the 4 week reporting period during February 2016, the amount spent in the retail industry was £26.7 billion (non-seasonally adjusted). 

This compares with:

  • £26.6 billion in the 4 week reporting period for January 2016
  • £26.4 billion in the 4 week reporting period for February 2015

This equates to an average weekly spend of:

  • £6.7 billion in February 2016, unchanged from January 2016 and
  • £6.6 billion in February 2015 

4.Sector summary

Main points:

In February 2016:

• all store types, except textile, clothing and footwear stores showed increases in the quantity bought compared with February 2015

• all store types except textile, clothing and footwear stores and petrol stations showed increases in the amount spent year-on-year

• all store types saw falls in average store price compared with February 2015

Non-seasonally adjusted data show that the prices of goods sold in the retail industry (as measured by the implied price deflator) decreased by 2.5%. 

More information on how the implied price deflator and other estimates in this release are calculated, can be found in section 3 of the background notes. 

5.Focus on textile, clothing and footwear stores

In February 2016, the quantity bought in textile, clothing and footwear stores decreased by 2.4% compared with February 2015 and by 0.4% compared with January 2016. 

The amount spent in February 2016 decreased by 2.8% compared with February 2015 and by 0.6% compared with January 2016. Average prices in store as measured by the implied price deflator, decreased by 0.5% year-on-year. 

Feedback from retailers suggests that sales of their spring and summer collections have been impacted by cold and wet weather.

Figure 1 shows the 3 month on 3 month movement in the quantity bought and amount spent. Since early 2013, the pattern in the quantity bought and amount spent has been similar and after sustained underlying growth until mid-2015 the most recent periods have shown a steady decline. 

In the quantity bought there was a fall of 3.4% in February 2016, the sixth consecutive period of 3 month on 3 month decreases. Similarly, in the 3 month on 3 month movement in amount spent there was a fall of 1.7% which was also the sixth consecutive period of 3 month on 3 month falls. For both quantity bought and amount spent these are the longest run of consecutive decreases since October 1991 when there were 7 periods of 3 month on 3 month falls. 

7.Contributions to growth

The retail industry is divided into 4 retail sectors:

  • predominantly food stores (for example, supermarkets, specialist food stores and sales of alcoholic drinks and tobacco)
  • predominantly non-food stores (for example, non-specialised stores, such as department stores, textiles, clothing and footwear, household goods and other stores)
  • non-store retailing (for example, mail order, catalogues and market stalls)
  • stores selling automotive fuel (petrol stations)

Figure 2 shows that for every pound spent in the retail industry: 

  • 40 pence was spent in food stores
  • 43 pence in non-food stores
  • 8 pence in non-store retailing
  • 9 pence in stores selling automotive fuel

Using these as weights, along with the year-on-year growth rates, we can calculate how each sector contributed to the total year-on-year growth in the quantity bought.

In February 2016 compared with February 2015, all 4 main retail sectors saw an increase in the quantity bought (volume) while 3 of the 4 main sectors (food stores, non-food stores and non-store retailing) saw an increase in the amount spent (value). The largest contribution in the quantity bought came from food stores while the largest contribution in amount spent came from non-store retailing.

In February 2016 compared with January 2016, 3 of the 4 main retail sectors (food stores, non-food stores and petrol stations) saw a decrease in the quantity bought (volume) while 2 out of the 4 main retail sectors (food stores and petrol stations) saw a decrease in the amount spent (value). The largest contribution for both quantity bought and amount spent came from petrol stations. 

8.Distribution analysis

Table 4 shows how sales varied among different-sized retailers. It shows the distribution of reported change in sales values of businesses (from the RSI sample), ranked by size of business (based on number of employees). 

Businesses with 40 to 99 employees saw the largest growth in the amount spent in February 2016 compared with February 2015 (6.1%). Businesses with 100 and over employees showed an increase of 0.8%.

More information on the performance of the retail industry by store type and size can be found in the Business Analysis dataset

10.International data 

The only international estimate of retail sales available for February 2016 was published by the US Census Bureau on 15 March 2016. In its advanced retail sales estimates for January 2016, the amount spent in the US retail industry, including motor vehicles and parts and food services, decreased by 0.1% compared with the previous month and increased by 3.1% compared with February 2015.Total sales for the 3 months to February 2015 were up 2.9% from the same period a year ago.

The latest estimates of the volume of retail trade across the European Union, from Eurostat for January 2016, show the seasonally adjusted volume of retail trade increased by 0.4% in the euro area (EA19) and increased by 0.8% in the EU28 when compared with December 2015. Compared with January 2016, the retail sales index increased by 0.6% in the EA19 and by 0.3% in the EU28. Note that an accurate comparison cannot be made as Eurostat data are calculated on a 2010 = 100 basis, while data for Great Britain are calculated on a 2012 = 100 basis.

Source: Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.1.0.

 

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