Retail sales drop as cost-of-living crisis impacts spending

Retail sales
// Retail sales fell month on month in March
// Sales showed the continuation of a downward trend in online spending

Retail sales fell in March as consumers tighten their purse strings amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The ONS found that retail sales volumes excluding fuel dropped 1.4% on February’s figures, declining 1.1% when fuel is excluded.

Compared with pre-pandemic levels recorded in February 2020, sales volumes excluding fuel were up 2.2%.


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On a value basis, sales excluding fuel rose 6.7% on February and were up 9% on February 2020.

Sales in March 2022 showed the continuation of a downward trend in online spending, down 7.9% over the month, after a 6.9% decline in February.

Online sales proportions declined to the lowest level since before the pandemic in February 2020 – down to 26%.

Food store sales volumes also dropped by 1.1% in March, and have fallen each month since November 2021, as consumers spent more time in hospitality venues such as restaurants and bars.

The impact of rising food prices and the cost-of-living crisis could also be impacting food store sales.

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said of the retails sales data: “Retail sales fell back notably in March with rises in the cost of living hitting consumers’ spending.

“Online sales were hit particularly hard due to lower levels of discretionary spending.

“Fuel sales also fell substantially, with evidence suggesting some people reduced non-essential journeys, following record high petrol prices, while food sales continued to fall, dropping for the fifth consecutive month.”

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