18 Oct 2018

A little slow for September retail sales

It was a so-so September for retail sales as end of summer sales saw people spending – but only in some sectors.

The key findings from the statistics showed:

  • In the three months to September 2018, the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 1.2% when compared with the previous three months, with strong sales in “other stores” and online retailing.
  • The increase of 3.9% for the quantity of goods bought in “other stores” for the three months to September 2018 was the largest overall contributor to the growth in total retail sales, due largely to strong growth in watches and jewellery stores.
  • In September 2018, the quantity bought declined by 0.8% when compared with August 2018, due mainly to a large fall of 1.5% in food stores; the largest decline in food store sales since October 2015.
  • When compared with September 2017, the quantity bought in September 2018 increased by 3.0%, with growth across all sectors except department stores.
  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing fell slightly to 17.8% in September 2018 from the 18.0% reported in August 2018, yet food stores and clothing stores both reported record proportions of internet retail at 5.8% and 18.2% respectively.

Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at leading accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, said: “The summer sales were in full swing and it did entice people into shopping a bit more.

“There has been some steady growth in retail sales since September 2017 and year on year growth remains steady. This is in spite of some of the challenges facing the retail sector, including falls in footfall combined with an anticipated business rate increase of £186m from April 2019.  However, the stretched customer will welcome a fall in inflation from 2.7% in August to 2.4% in September, which may also delay a further rise in the Bank interest rate.

“There was strong growth in the watch and jewellery sector which saw an increase in quantity bought of 2% for the three months to September. The sector also reported that most of this growth came from high-end items – so perhaps this tells us people are feeling more comfortable and have a bit more disposable spend. It is questionable whether this will be sustainable but it does tell us that even short-term trends can help prop up sales figures. For example, more than £4million worth of mince pies were sold in September alone – it just goes to show us that if there is a need, people will buy!”

“Looking forward to October, it will be interesting to see how Halloween sales will creep into any retail growth.”


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