Retail sales volumes dipped by 0.9 per cent in August, bringing an end to three successive months of growth according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS.)
The main source of downward pressure came from the food sector, which dipped 2.7 per cent. This followed a strong performance in the previous month – up 2.7 per cent – where sales saw a boost from hot weather.
The retail sector accounts for about 6 per cent of the UK economy.
Online sales saw the most growth as average spending was £579.6m – an increase of 22.5 per cent compared with the same time last year.
The ONS figures are based on a monthly survey of 5,000 UK retailers, including all large retailers who employ 100 people or more.
Retailers have expressed concern in families spending power in the UK. Last week Asda said that UK households will be £1,300 worse off in real terms in 2018 compared to 2009 when disposable income was at its peak.
Martin Beck, UK Economist at Capital Economics said the August drop “is not necessarily a cause for too much worry.“
“The continuation of the summer’s prolonged hot spell may have tempted people away from the shops. Indeed, sales volumes also dropped in five of the last six Augusts at least as warm as August 2013,” he said.
“Food sales fell most sharply, but this may just be because consumers had stocked up in July (when food sales rose by a big 2.7 per cent m/m).”
But he added that with consumers’ real pay continuing to fall, August’s fall in sales volumes should caution those expecting a spectacular consumer recovery.
“A fairly slow pace of expansion in sales continues to beckon,” he said.