Business NewsUK Statistics

Retail sales in Great Britain: Oct 2016

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Main points

In October 2016, the quantity of goods bought (volume) in the retail industry was estimated to have increased by 7.4% compared with October 2015; all store types showed growth with the largest contribution coming from non-store retailing. This is the highest rate of growth since April 2002.

Compared with September 2016, the quantity bought was estimated to have increased by 1.9%; there were increases in all store types, except department stores. The largest contribution to growth came from textiles, clothing and footwear stores. 

The underlying pattern in the retail industry continues to show strong growth with the 3 month on 3 month movement in the quantity bought increasing by 1.9%; this is the 34th consecutive period of 3 month on 3 month growth.

Average store prices (including petrol stations) fell by 0.7% in October 2016 compared with October 2015; there were falls in average store price across all store types, except petrol stations. This is the smallest decrease since July 2014 and the latest Consumer Prices Index (CPI) shows that the largest upwards pressure on inflation is from transport costs. 

The amount spent (value) in the retail industry increased by 6.6% compared with October 2015 and increased by 2.1% compared with September 2016.

The amount spent online increased by 26.8% compared with October 2015 and by 1.3% compared with September 2016.

Changes to publication schedule for economic statistics

As previously announced, from January 2017 we are improving the way we publish economic statistics in a number of ways. 

We are publishing related data at the same time under new “theme” days. This will increase the coherence of our data releases and involve minor changes to the timing of certain publications. For more information see Changes to publication schedule for economic statistics

We are making improvements to our bulletins and their contents, to provide a more concise summary of our statistics. We would appreciate your help in shaping our new look and format. Please complete this survey, where you can see a new version of a previous release and give us your feedback. 

Things you need to know about this release

This bulletin presents estimates of the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in the retail industry for the period 2 October 2016 to 29 October 2016. Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted. 

The estimates 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 trading period, 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. Current price non-seasonally adjusted data 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 October 2016 was 93.3% of questionnaires, accounting for 60.8% 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

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

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