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ONS Retail Sales January 2020

Retail sales (value, non-seasonally adjusted, excluding fuel) declined by 2.3% year-on-year in January according to the latest ONS data, marking the steepest decline since May last year as England entered a third national lockdown.

In volume terms, retail sales dropped by 3.2% in January on the previous year (seasonally adjusted, excluding fuel). On a month-on-month basis, volumes plunged 8.8%.

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

Source: ONS

The ONS commented that retail sales volumes were 5.5% lower than pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, with the impact of recent restrictions on the retail sector far less severe compared to the first full month of Covid-19 restrictions in April 2020, which saw sales fall by 22.2%.

Shopping online and the ability to offer click and collect delivery softened the impact of mandated physical store closures in January.

National store closures saw online sales (non-seasonally adjusted, excluding automotive fuel) soar by 75.1% year-on-year in January, against an uplift of 8.6% a year earlier.

This saw online sales account for a record 36.3% of total retail sales in January – a significant leap from 20.2% a year earlier and topping the previous record of 36.2% seen during the four-week national lockdown in November.

The retail sales deflator (a measure of inflation specific to retail) excluding fuel dipped by 0.4% compared to last year (and declined 1.0% when including fuel).

The implied price deflator among both food and non-food stores edged down by 0.3% year-on-year, with traditional January sales unable to entice retail into overall growth.

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