ONS August figures reveal volume growth, despite notable price increases

In Industry Comment, Industry News On

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has announced its retail figures for August 2017, with the volume in the retail sales industry increasing by 1.0% compared with July 2017.

The underlying pattern in the retail industry is also one of growth – three-months on three-months the quantity bought has increased by 1.2%. Store prices increased across all store types on the year, with non-food stores and non-store retailing recording their highest year-on-year price growth since March 1992, at 3.2% and 3.3% respectively.

ONS senior statistician Kate Davies commented: “Within this month’s retail sales we are seeing strong price increases across all store types compared with a year ago, reflecting wider inflationary pressures. However, we are still seeing underlying growth in sales volumes, and with strong growth in non-essential purchases as consumers continued to buy more from non-food stores.”

Salmon global head of consultancy and innovation Hugh Fletcher was among those to comment on the latest figures.

“It’s unsurprising to see online retail experiencing continued year-on-year growth (15.6%) as shoppers crave greater convenience in their daily routines,” he said. “However, the sector as a whole should take note that expenditure in food stores and petrol stations were flat, indicating that shoppers were predominantly spending on non-necessity or even luxury goods and services. The summer was likely a strong contributor to this as schools were on break and tourism around the country would have been bolstered.

“In the coming months, we are very likely to see a noticeable dip as this kind of spending reduces now that the summer season is over, and uncertainty reigns over Brexit and house prices. At this point, it’s vital the retailers start to look ahead to the next peak trading period and ensure they are ready to capitalise.”

He added: “Events like Black Friday and Christmas, and increasingly Halloween for some retailers, offer huge opportunities to reap additional gains. But as consumers look to purchase items they want, not need, a focus on online and innovation will be absolutely paramount. This is all about accessibility and convenience. The quicker and easier it is to buy from a retailer, the more popular that retailer will be – online, mobile and digital offerings across the board are therefore vital. If retailers can combine a peak period with being the easiest way to shop, they are going to win – and the kind of success seen over the summer will continue into autumn and winter.”

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