Furniture retail sales fell during January; carpets up

Furniture retail sales declined during January on last month but did increase against an annual comparison.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales decreased 23.5% to £1.3bn from £1.7bn in December. Compared to the previous year, sales rose 8.3% from £1.2bn.

Floorcovering retail sales rose month-on-month, up by 11.2% to £225.1m from £202.4m. Compared to the same time last year, sales decreased by 2.6% from £231.2m.

Department stores sales volumes rose by 0.8% in January 2023, from a fall of 3.1% in December 2022. Some retailers reported sales starting as early as Christmas Eve and running until the end of January 2023.

Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in January fell by 5.7%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 3.9% to £34.8bn year-on-year. On a monthly comparison, volumes were up 0.5%, with the value spent up by 0.6%.

Online spending values fell by 2.1% in January 2023, because of monthly falls across all industries except non-store retailing and clothing stores. The proportion of online sales fell to 25.0% in January 2023 from 25.7% in December 2022. Despite this fall, the proportion of retail sales taking place online remains above the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.8% in February 2020).

Commenting on the retail sales figures for January, ONS Director of Economic Statistics Darren Morgan said: “After December’s steep fall, retail sales picked up slightly in January, although the general trend remains one of decline.

“In the latest month, as prices continue to fall at the pumps, fuel sales have risen. Meanwhile, discounting helped boost sales for online retailers as well as jewellers, cosmetic stores and carpet and furnishing shops. 

“However, after four months of consecutive growth, clothing store sales fell back sharply. Food store sales dipped again with consumers reporting they were selecting lower-priced goods as the increased cost of living and higher food prices continue to bite.”

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Widespread January sales helped sales growth remain positive as the industry entered the New Year. Despite this, the rise in consumer spending could not keep up with the double-digit inflation rates, with another fall in retail volumes. Larger purchases were hit harder as consumers tightened their purse strings or traded down to value brands. Meanwhile, clothing and footwear saw stronger growth for the month.”

“With consumer confidence falling slightly, and high costs throughout the supply chain preventing prices from falling, it is a bumpy road for households. However, retailers are taking steps to cut costs and limit price rises where they can, to help their hard-pressed customers.”

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