Furniture retail sales improve in September; volumes down

Furniture retail sales increased during September on last month as well as rising against an annual comparison.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales rose 26% to £1.65bn from £1.3bn in August. Compared to the previous year, sales were up 5.7% from £1.56bn.

Floorcovering retail sales rose month-on-month, up by 22% to £271.8m from £221.6m. Compared to the same time last year, sales increased by 6.9% from £254.1m.

Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household, and other non-food stores) fell by 1.9% in September 2023, following a rise of 0.3% in August 2023.

Within non-food, household goods stores sales volumes reported a monthly fall of 2.3% in September 2023 because of falls in furniture and lighting stores. Retailers suggested that consumers were still struggling with the increased cost of living and prices.

Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in September fell by 1%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 4.7% to £47.1bn year-on-year. On a monthly comparison, volumes were down 0.9%, with the value spent up by 0.2%.

Online spending values fell by 1.3% from August to September 2023, mainly because of non-store retailing, other non-food stores, and textile, clothing, and footwear stores.

As the month-on-month fall in the value of online retail was larger than the monthly fall in the value of total retail, the proportion of online sales fell from 27.0% in August 2023 to 26.7% in September 2023.

The proportion of online sales continued to exceed pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.7% in February 2020).

Commenting on the retail sales figures for September, ONS Chief Economist Grant Fitzner said: “Retail sales fell notably in September with retailers telling us that cost of living pressures are influencing consumers, particularly for sales of non-essential goods.

“It was a poor month for clothing stores as the warm autumnal conditions reduced sales of colder weather gear. However, September’s unseasonable warmth did help drive up food sales a little, and fuel sales rebounded from last month’s fall.”

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “As mortgages, rents and fuel costs continued to weigh on households, sales were impacted for big ticket items such as computers, electricals and larger household appliances. Meanwhile, cosmetics and toiletries had another strong month.

“With the “Golden Quarter” fast approaching, retailers are hopeful that easing inflation we have seen in recent months will boost consumer confidence. Retailers will continue to support customers by bringing prices down wherever they can. But, the support they can provide will be limited by the expected £470m-a-year rise to business rates from next April. The Chancellor must scrap the rates rise in his upcoming Budget so retailers can continue to deliver the best value for customers over the festive period and beyond.”

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