Market news

18 June 2021

UK retail sales unexpectedly fell in May

According to the report from Office for National Statistics, retail sales volumes declined by 1.4% between April and May 2021 following a sharp increase in April when retail restrictions were eased; despite the monthly decline, over April and May combined. Economists had expected a 1.6% increase.

Average total retail sales volumes were still 7.7% higher than in March 2021, and were 9.1% higher than in February 2020 before the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The largest contribution to the monthly decline in May 2021 came from food stores where sales volumes fell by 5.7%; anecdotal evidence suggests the easing of hospitality restrictions had had an impact on sales as people returned to eating and drinking at locations such as restaurants and bars.

Non-food stores reported a 2.3% increase in monthly sales volumes in May 2021 with household goods stores (for example, hardware and furniture stores) and “other” non-food stores reporting the largest growth of 9.0% and 7.7% respectively.

Retail sales volumes in May 2021 were 24.6% higher than in May 2020, which was affected by the first national lockdown when the tightest restrictions were in place; however, these growth rates are distorted by base effects and are not a reliable guide.

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