Furniture retail sales down in July as wet weather impacts demand

Furniture retail sales fell during July on last month as well as showing a decrease against an annual comparison.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales fell 20% to £1.20bn from £1.5bn in June. Compared to the previous year, sales declined 1.6% from £1.22bn. This marked the lowest monthly sales since August 2022 when revenues stood at £1.20bn.

Floorcovering retail sales fell month-on-month, down by 7.1% to £228.3m from £245.8m. Compared to the same time last year, sales increased by 12% from £203.8m.

Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 1.7% in July 2023, following a rise of 0.6% in June 2023. Within non-food stores, household goods stores reported a monthly fall in sales volumes of 3.8% because of a fall in furniture and lighting stores. Department stores sales volumes fell by 2.9% over the month, while clothing stores fell by 2.2%.

Feedback from retailers suggests that reduced footfall because of the poor weather in July 2023 affected sales volumes. The Met Office’s monthly climate summary reported that the UK had 170.0% of the average rainfall for the month, making this provisionally the wettest July since 2009 and the sixth wettest July on record since 1836.

Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in July fell by 3.2%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 1.1% to £39bn year-on-year. On a monthly comparison, volumes were down 1.2%, with the value spent also down by 1%.

Online spending values rose by 4.1% in July 2023 because of strong growth in non-store retailing and other non-food stores. The value of online spending rose, while the value of retail sales as a whole fell. Because of this the proportion of online sales rose to 27.4% in July 2023 from 26.0% in June 2023. This is the highest proportion of retail sales taking place online since February 2022 (28.0%) and remains significantly above the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.6% in February 2020).

Commenting on the retail sales figures for July, ONS Deputy Director for Surveys and Economic Indicators Heather Bovill said: “Retail sales fell sharply in July as poor weather impacted most sectors. 

“It was a particularly bad month for supermarkets as the summer washout combined with the increased cost of living meant sluggish sales for both clothing and food. Department store and household goods sales also dropped significantly.

“The wet weather did mean a good month for online retailing, as discounting plus consumers shopping from the comfort of their homes boosted sales.”

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “July’s poor weather dampened retail sales, with spend stalling in areas such as clothing and footwear and household goods. Weakening consumer confidence also impacted purchases of big ticket items as customers continued to spend more cautiously, especially for computing and furniture. Meanwhile, sales for books and stationery performed better.

“Retailers are hopeful that the coming months will provide a boost to spending, as England fans celebrate the Women’s Football World Cup Final this weekend, families start their back-to-school shopping and university students ready themselves for the new academic year. Nonetheless, the economic backdrop will remain difficult, and Government must find ways to create an environment that fosters economic growth.”

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