ONS reveals upward-trending retail figures for June

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released its figures for retail sales in June.

In the 3 months to June 2017, the quantity bought (volume) in the retail industry is estimated to have increased by 1.5%, with increases seen across all store types, the figures reveal.

The growth for Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2017 follows a decline of 1.4% in Quarter 1 (Jan Mar) 2017, meaning we are broadly at the same level as at the start of 2017.

Compared with May 2017, the quantity bought increased by 0.6%, with non-food stores providing the main contribution.

Average store prices (including petrol stations) increased by 2.7% on the year following a rise of 3.2% in May 2017; the fall is a consequence of slowing fuel prices.

Online sales (excluding automotive fuel) increased year-on-year by 15.9% and by 1.8% on the month, accounting for approximately 16.2% of all retail spending.

Office for National Statistics senior statistician Kate Davies said: “Today’s retail sales figures show overall growth. A particularly warm June seems to have prompted strong sales in clothing, which has compensated for a decline in food and fuel sales for the month.

“Looking at the quarterly data, the underlying trend as suggested by the three-month on three-month movement is one of growth, following a fall in Quarter 1, suggesting a relatively flat first half of 2017.”

Accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy partner and head of retail and wholesale Phil Mullis commented: “Inflation pushed prices up but consumers did benefit from a fall in fuel prices. Spend was up 0.4% compared to May, 1.6% on the last three months and 5% year on year, so things are looking up.

“The good weather we experienced in June helped to get people into stores to kit out their summer wardrobes – and retailers who were able to adopt an effective forecasting strategy to push full price sales were particularly prosperous.

“Will the good summer vibes continue? We hope so, but inflation is due to hit 3% by the end of the year. This is bound to have an effect on consumer spending as it hits our pockets. Retailers will need to be fluid and adopt their sales strategies if they want to weather a potential future storm.”

Fujitsu UK and Ireland director for retail and hospitality Heather Barson added: “This uplift in UK sales is just the news retailers needed to hear after a gloomy start to the year. The sunny weather appears to have had notable impact, and so retailers should continue to find ways to keep ahead of trends so that they can meet consumer’s demands – we even saw how something as simple as ice cream could bolster sales!

“Whilst it’s positive to see spending growth increase slightly from previous months, retailers cannot get complacent. If retailers are to continue this progress, they will need to adopt new and agile tactics for attracting tomorrow’s customers. To really stand out, it’ll be more important than ever for retailers to make the in-store experience as seamless as shopping online – this is where smart use of in-store technology can come into its own.

“Our recent Forgotten Shop Floor study found that 8-in-10 consumers report that they would spend more with retailers that have a better technology offering, which means that whilst high street stores hold greater opportunities than ever, those unwilling to embrace technological advancements will not reap the rewards. Retailers must be visionary in their use of tech and give shoppers what they want, before they know they want it, just as Henry Ford believed. With customers and competitors poised to move forward, those standing still face a worrying prospect – being the next generation of retailers to be pushed out of the high street for good.”

Insight UK sales director Gill Holloway also commented on the latest figures.

“It’s been a tough year for British retailers so it’s great to see it’s not just the temperature that’s picked up in June,” she said. “The retail landscape is an incredibly competitive and often volatile space. Life used to be simpler, customers wanted good customer service, a decent look at the products on sale and a relatively pain free transaction. On the flip side, retailers would measure by footfall and the number of items per transaction. Now, the personalised experience online retailers are able to bring has put traditional retailers to the test.

“With this new world comes huge opportunities, and it’s data that will help struggling retailers cross the digital divide. Online natives have been born into a world where they’re able to know exactly who their audience is, how they behave on their website and even how they browse between competitors. This has challenged retailers to look for new ways to get to know their customers, from using beacon technology to send personalised vouchers, to putting a QR code on a hanger to the customer can explore the range online.

“Physical stores can offer something online will always struggle with, an experience with a real human face, and utilising data collection points in store will see them capitalise on that advantage.”

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