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UK Retail Sales Report summary

February 2021

Period covered: Period covered: 01 Jan 2021 – 31 Jan 2021

Note: Reporting periods are either one month or two months behind the current month as standard.

Retail sales fell by 1.7% in January, year-on-year, according to the Retail Economics Retail Sales Index (value, non-seasonally adjusted, exc. Fuel). There was a sharp polarisation between the performance of food (+9.1%) and non-food (-12.2%). However, there was a significant shift towards online as consumers reverted seamlessly to lockdown shopping behaviour.

Online sales rose by 75.1% (value, non-seasonally adjusted) on the previous year, accounting for 36.3% of retail sales in January (value and non-seasonally adjusted). Online food remained in strong demand with sales rising by 144.5% on the previous year. Average weekly sales for online food rose to £415.8 million, up from £170.1 million in January 2020.

There is a strong correlation between consumers who believe their shopping habits will change on a permanent basis, with those who say that they will do more online shopping even after the impact of the pandemic resides. The motivation for a more permanent behavioural shift towards online shopping was strongest for the most affluent households, particularly for those aged between 25 and 44 years old.

Retail Economics forecasts that online sales will fall from 28.1% of total sales in 2020 to 26.% in 2021 – representing a significant step change in the proportion of sales occurring online. Our research shows that around 40% of consumer say that parts of their spending behaviour will change on a permanent basis because of the impact of the virus.


Source: Retail Economics

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  • Overview of UK retail sales
  • Retail sales growth by category Y-o-Y
  • Online sales growth (Y-o-Y)
  • Retail sales by region (£m)
  • Total spend by sector
  • Weekly spend (£m)
  • Footfall stats by channel
  • External data source summaries
  • Regional weather data