UK Retail Sales Surge in December, But Hit Record Low in 2020

  • January 23, 2021 02:39 AM AEDT
  • Kunal Sawhney
    Kunal Sawhney
    CEO Kunal Sawhney
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    Kunal Sawhney is founder & CEO at Kalkine and is a richly experienced and accomplished financial professional with a wealth of knowledge in the Australian Equities Market. Kunal obtained a Master of Business Administration degree from University of T...

UK Retail Sales Surge in December, But Hit Record Low in 2020


  • The ONS report stated a surge of 0.3 per cent in Britain’s total retail sales volume and 0.4 per cent in value sales in December.
  • The largest monthly growth of 21.5 per cent in volume and 23.7 per cent in value were witnessed in December by the clothing retailers.

The latest data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the retail sales in the UK slightly increased for December, though it was still below the expected levels in the Christmas period.

The survey conducted between 29 November 2020 and 2 January 2021 suggested that consumer spending has contributed towards supporting the economy, unlike the retail sales that contracted by 3.8 per cent in November 2020.

The ONS report stated that there was a surge of 0.3 per cent in Britain’s total retail sales volume and 0.4 per cent in value sales in December as compared to November. The growth rate in the volume of retail sales recorded a 2.9 per cent increase in December 2020 on a year-on-year basis. The December figure was also better as compared to February (pre-pandemic level) by 2.7 per cent.

According to the retailers, store closures in December have affected the turnover, but this was offset by Christmas purchases through click and collect, and online sales to some extent.

The largest monthly growth of 21.5 per cent in volume and 23.7 per cent in value were witnessed by the clothing retailers in December, which recovered from the 19.6 per cent level reported in November. However, on a Y-o-Y basis, sales in this sector witnessed a drop of 14.2 per cent despite the monthly recovery.

(Image source: ©Kalkine Group 2020)

Also, there was a monthly increase of 1.6 percentage points in value and 1.4 percentage points in volume for the non-food stores.

On the other hand, food stores reported a monthly fall of 3.4 per cent in December.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at ONS, said retail sales in December increased slightly due to an improvement in clothing sales, driven by the easing of some lockdown measures.

Related Read: UK Retail Sales Decline by 3.8 Per Cent in November Due to Lockdown, Restrictions


A clearer picture


Talking about the year 2020, the total retail sales were 1.9 per cent down. The retail sector recorded its lowest reading since the measure came into force in 1996, making it the worst year in near history.

Sub-sector’s performance:

Clothing stores: Retail sales in this sub-sector recorded the largest annual fall, witnessing a 25 per cent drop in 12 months getting heavily affected by the restrictions and lockdowns.

Fuel retailers: They recorded a 22.2 per cent fall Y-o-Y because of the travel restrictions in place and work from home guidelines, which in turn reduced the demand for fuel.

Department stores and Others: Department stores numbers fell 5.2 per cent, and other stores fell 11.6 per cent, registering a record year-on-year fall. The sector includes jewellery, cosmetics, and toys, among other sectors.

Food stores: The sub-sector annual growth was at 4.3 per cent, recording the highest yearly growth since 2001.

Non-store retailers: The sector also reported a record annual growth of 32.0 per cent in 2020.


Online Sales- The saviour


The total online sales in December observed 6.2 per cent on a monthly basis. However, on a y-o-y basis, the total online sales surged by 61.4 per cent as compared to the numbers in December 2019.



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