Furniture retail sales up in March; carpets also increase

Furniture retail sales returned to growth during March on last month as well as increasing against an annual comparison.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales increased 31% to £1.675bn from £1.2bn in February. This marked the highest result so far this year and also since December’s figure of £1.7bn. Compared to the previous year, sales rose 4.3% from £1.605bn.

Floorcovering retail sales rose month-on-month, up by 28.5% to £268.1m from £208.5m. Compared to the same time last year, sales decreased by 3.8% from £278.1m.

Total non-food stores sales volumes (total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) fell by 1.3% over the month, following a rise of 2.4% in February 2023.

Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in March fell by 3.1%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 4.5% to £47.2bn year-on-year. On a monthly comparison, volumes were down 0.9%, with the value spent also down by 0.9%.

Online spending values rose by 0.8% in March 2023, because of monthly increases across all industries except other non-food stores. 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 March, ONS Director of Economic Statistics Darren Morgan said: “Retail fell sharply in March as poor weather impacted on sales across almost all sectors. However, the broader trend is less subdued, as a strong performance from retailers in January and February means the three-month picture shows positive growth for the first time since August 2021.

“In the latest month, department stores, clothing shops and garden centres experienced heavy declines as significant rainfall dampened enthusiasm for shopping. Food store sales also slipped, with retailer feedback suggesting the increased cost of living and climbing food prices are continuing to affect consumer spending.”  

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “March saw sales volumes fall for the 12th consecutive month. But despite many consumers tightening their purse strings, they still wanted to celebrate special occasions, and there was particular strong growth in jewellery and cosmetics sales thanks to Mother’s Day gifting. Meanwhile, clothing sales were held back by the wet weather in March.

“Retailers are optimistic for the big events on the Spring calendar such as the King’s Coronation, and other bank holidays. However, the removal of Government support for household bills from this month will mean consumer discretionary spend will be under additional pressure. We need Government to help retailers keep prices down and shore up consumer confidence by ensuring any additional regulatory burdens are kept to a minimum, as these additional cost pressures will inevitably mean that consumers will be further squeezed.”

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