independent– Retail sales in Britain slumped in November for the first time in six months amid the closure of non-essential shops, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
Sales figures were 3.8 per cent lower last month they were in October, a marginally better outcome than the 4.1 per cent drop predicted by analysts.
Despite the decline, the overall sales total was higher than pre-pandemic levels, with online purchases increasing significantly, according to the ONS.
In November, retailers were hit by the closure of non-essential shops in England, Wales and areas of Scotland as part of the introduction of stricter coronavirus measures.
During this period, clothing store sales plummeted by 19 per cent from the previous month, a large contributing factor to the overall decline in retail sales.
Food and household goods were the only sectors that managed to show growth in their monthly sales, with figures rising by 3.1 and 1.6 per cent respectively.
The ONS said that the food sector was boosted by the closure of hospitality venues, while sales of household goods were helped by early Christmas purchases.
Jonathan Athow, the deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “Household goods and food shops were the only areas to see their monthly sales increase, with feedback from stores suggesting consumers brought forward their Christmas spending, particularly on festive home products and DIY.”
“Food sales, especially click and collect, were boosted as people were not able to eat out,” he added.
Online sales in November rose 74.7 per cent higher from the same month in 2019, while they also increased their share of the retail market to 31.4 per cent – up from 28.6 per cent in October.
Although not as large as the UK’s slump, the US experienced its biggest drop in retail sales for seven months in November, with a 1.1 per cent reduction from October.
Talking about the US market, Chris Rupkey, an economist at the global financial group MUFG, said it would take a “miracle to keep retail sales positive in December”.