UK shop sales continue to fall in September

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Retail sales fell for the fifth month in a row in September, with people spending less in shops despite Covid restrictions easing in the summer.

Sales dipped by 0.2% in September, following a 0.6% drop in August, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Non-food stores were hit hardest by the decline in sales, with customers buying fewer household goods and furniture.

In contrast, fuel sales rose by 2.9%, pushed up by a spike in demand.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: “Household goods were the main driver of this month’s decline, with a fall of nearly 10%, while food sales ticked back up after falling last month.”

He added that petrol sales exceeded their pre-pandemic levels for the first time in September. Petrol stations reported strong sales during the last week of the month after warnings over delivery problems due to a shortage of lorry drivers.

Despite coronavirus-related restrictions being lifted in the summer, shopping in-store remained subdued.

‘Bounce back is vital’
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that shop owners would be “concerned” by the slump in sales in the run-up to the key Christmas trading period.

“For the sake of the UK’s economic recovery, it is vital that retail sales bounce back as we near the festive season,” she said.

She added that labour shortages across supply chains, warehouses, and factories were all putting pressure on retailers ahead of the festive season.

The proportion of online sales, however, rose to 28.1% in September, from 27.9% the month before – substantially higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Department stores also reported an increase in sales of 4.3%.

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