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ONS Retail Sales August 2020

Retail remained in growth in August, with overall retail sales (value, non-seasonally adjusted, excluding fuel) increasing by 4.1% year-on-year according to the latest ONS data. This follows a 2.9% rise both in the previous month and a year earlier.

In volume terms (seasonally adjusted, excluding fuel), this marked a 4.3% increase in August on last year. The ONS noted that retail sales volumes stand at 4.0% higher compared with February’s pre-pandemic level.

Month-on-month, the increase was 0.6% by volume. A better reflection of recent trends is shown by the three-month on three-month rate, which saw sales volumes rise by a substantial 15.4% in August (excluding fuel).

Retail sales (volume, seasonally adjusted) – 3-months on previous 3-months

Source: ONS

Consumers remain set on home improvement, buoyed by pent up demand and recent government support such as the temporary reduction in stamp duty. The ONS said that August sales volumes within household goods stores were 9.9% higher than February’s level. This has come in contrast to other categories such as clothing, with clothing stores still 15.9% below February’s level.

Despite the easing of lockdown and 'Eat Out to Help Out' encouraging some improvement in footfall compared to recent months, the recovery in retail continues to favour online players. Online sales (non-seasonally adjusted, excluding automotive fuel) were up by 52.7% year-on-year in August, from 53.8% in the previous month. This saw online sales account for 26.6% of total retail sales in August.

The retail sales deflator (a measure of inflation specific to retail) excluding fuel was flat in August compared to last year, but declined by 1.2% when including fuel. Non-Food stores dipped 0.1% year-on-year, while prices continued to edge up in Food stores, up by 0.4% year-on-year.

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