Furniture retail sales fell during August on last month but increased against an annual comparison.
According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales fell 1.5% to £1.26bn from £1.28bn in July. Compared to the previous year, sales rose 5% from £1.20bn.
Floorcovering retail sales fell month-on-month, down by 0.7% to £224.8m from £226.6m. Compared to the same time last year, sales increased by 6.4% from £211.2m.
Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) grew by 0.6% in August 2023, following a fall of 1.2% in July 2023 when feedback from retailers suggested that poor weather conditions affected sales.
Household goods stores sales volumes reported a monthly rise of 1.1% in August 2023 because of increases in hardware and furniture stores. Sales volumes for department stores and other non-food stores, such as bookshops, both fell by 0.4% in August 2023. Retailers suggested that consumers were still struggling with the increased cost of living and prices.
Feedback from retailers suggested that poor weather conditions affected sales. The Met Office’s monthly climate summary for July reported that the UK had 170.0% of the average rainfall for the month, making it provisionally the wettest July since 2009 and the sixth-wettest July on record since 1836. While weather in August 2023 improved on July, it was still a mixed and unsettled month.
Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in August fell by 1.4%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 3.8% to £38bn year-on-year. On a monthly comparison, volumes were up 0.4%, with the value spent also up by 0.8%.
Online spending values fell by 0.9% from July to August 2023 because of falls in non-store retailing and other non-food stores, both of which grew strongly in July 2023. This month-on-month fall in the value of online spending combined with growth in the overall value of retail sales meant the proportion of online sales fell from 27.4% in July 2023 to 26.9% in August 2023.
Despite this, the proportion of online sales continued to exceed pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.7% in February 2020), and with the exception of July 2023 (27.4%) is the highest since April 2022 (27.3%).
Commenting on the retail sales figures for August, ONS senior statistician Heather Bovill said: “Retail recovered a little from the large fall seen in July, driven by a partial bounce back in food and a strong month for clothing, though sales overall remain subdued.
“These were partially offset by internet sales, which dropped slightly as some people returned to shopping in person following a very wet July. Fuel sales also fell, with increased prices hitting demand.”
Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Returning consumer confidence helped retail sales regain lost ground after a challenging July. Toiletries, cosmetics, and books performed particularly well as consumers purchased holiday essentials for their late summer getaways. Although white goods and other big-ticket items continued to take a hit as households spent more cautiously.
“The next few months are vital for retailers as they gear up for the all-important Christmas trading. While cost-of-living challenges continue to loom large, retailers are working hard ensuring customers get the best possible value. Their capacity to do this is limited by the upcoming rise to business rates, which will see retailers paying hundreds of millions more every year and which the Chancellor should scrap in his upcoming Autumn Statement.”