Furniture retail sales fall to year low in July

Furniture retail sales fell during July on last month but rose against an annual comparison, marking the lowest figure so far this year.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales decreased 20.7% to £1.22bn from £1.54bn in June. Compared to the previous year, sales increased 2.5% from £1.19bn.

Floorcovering retail sales were also down month-on-month by 19.7% to £199.2m from £248.3m. Compared to the same time last year, sales increased by 15.8% from £171.9m.

Household goods stores sales volumes fell by 0.4% in July 2022, mainly because of falls in furniture and lighting stores. Feedback from retailers suggests that consumers are cutting back on spending because of increased prices and affordability concerns.

Department store sales volumes rose by 1.4% but were 4.0% below their February 2020 levels.

Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in July fell by 3.4%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 7.8% to £38.6bn year-on-year.

The proportion of retail sales online rose to 26.3% in July 2022, from 25.3% in June 2022. Despite this pick-up, it continues a broad downward trend since its peak in February 2021 (37.5%), but remains above pre-pandemic levels (19.8% in February 2020).

Commenting on the retail sales figures for the month, director of economic statistics Darren Morgan, said: “Retail sales nudged up very slightly in July, but looking at the longer-term picture, they are continuing the downward trend which started last summer.

“Online sales did pick up this month, as retailers told us that sales were boosted by a range of offers and promotions. However, fuel sales fell with some evidence suggesting the very hot weather meant fewer people travelling.

“Clothing and household goods sales declined again, with feedback continuing to indicate consumers are cutting back due to increased prices and concerns around affordability and cost of living.”

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The summer sunshine brought a slight uplift in sales. Summer clothing, air conditioning appliances and outdoor foods all benefitted from record temperatures, but most retailers will still be seeing falling volumes in the face of rising inflation.

“Consumer confidence has hit new lows as inflation soared past 10% and talk of a recession has grown. The Bank of England expects inflation to reach over 13% in October when energy bills rise again, further limiting discretionary spending for struggling households. For many businesses, 2022 is proving to be every bit as challenging as the pandemic.”

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