Nov 19, 2021
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Fashion and pre-owned were star categories for UK retail in October

Nov 19, 2021

UK retail sales volumes edged up 0.8% month-on-month in October as sales by value rose 1.6%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday. And volumes were also 5.8% higher than their pre-pandemic February 2020 levels, with value sales 8.9% higher.

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But the really good news was that non-food drove the increases, especially clothing stores.

In fact, non-food was the only main retail sector that saw a rise in sales volumes, increasing by 4.2% as clothing stores within that 'super-sector' rose 6.2%. The latter’s sales volumes in October 2021 were only 0.5% below pre-pandemic levels, with some retailers suggesting that early Christmas trading had boosted sales.

Admittedly, some of the value rise would have been accounted for by higher prices as inflation spiked, but the expanding volume suggests that consumers are back to their usual shopping habits even if (hopefully) they’re also shopping more consciously post-pandemic.

The figures suggest they might be more sustainability-conscious as the sub-sector ‘other non-food stores’, which includes second-hand goods, rose by 7.2% month-on-month and pre-owned items made the largest contribution to that rise.

The ONS also said the most common items bought or pre-ordered earlier than usual for Christmas this year included toys and clothes, shoes or accessories. 

Not that the figures were universally good. While department stores reported an increase in monthly sales volumes of 0.6%, they were still 2.8% below their levels in February 2020.

Meanwhile, online retail made up 27.3% of all retail last month, but overall sales were down 8.2% year-on-year and 0.6% month-on-month, both falls being easy to understand given consumers’ willingness to shop physically again.

Again, department store weren’t the best performers online just as they weren’t physically, as their e-sales fell 17.4% compared to a year ago and 1% compared to September. But textiles/clothing/footwear e-store sales were up 0.6% on the year and 1.2% on the month. E-sales made up 26.4% of total textiles/clothing/footwear store sales.

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