Surprise boost in retail sales as shoppers hunt for bargains

Surprise boost in June retail sales as shoppers hunt for bargains

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June's ONS retail report shows a surprise bounce in retail sales as bargain-hungry consumers finally look to be taking advantage of the summer sales.

Post By Craig Bennett -

Surprise boost in retail sales as shoppers hunt for bargains

Looking at month on month sales of May to June 2019, the quantity bought increased by 1% while the amount in sales increased by 1.3%.  Year on year, this translates to a healthy boost of quantity bought across the sector of 3.8%.

The June report also highlights the online space, where sales have slowed slightly to 18.9% from the 19.3% reported in May.  Whilst no speculation is given as to the reason behind this, the fact there has been steady growth year on year of 0.8% in all sectors apart from food stores seems to suggest that this slight reduction in spend is not yet of concern.

Reflecting more broadly on the last year, we’re starting to see that detailed analysis of the month on month view across all four main sectors shows a somewhat volatile picture, especially when compared to the smoother view of a quarter by quarter view.  The impact of the weather and seasonality can be seen much more clearly in the monthly view, with peaks and troughs in retail activity directly attributed to these.  Whilst again this is not a concern in itself, it points to much less predictable shopping habits driven by changing customer expectations and probably, to a much larger extent, the impact of online on consumer behaviours.

The ONS continues to cite growth in the weight of non-food stores, with 41p in every £1 spent in traditional clothing and footwear stores, household goods and other non-food stores.  Clothing particularly seems to be recovering from strong falls in the previous month with anecdotal feedback from retailers suggesting that a positive reaction to the summer sales is giving a somewhat unexpected (but much hoped-for) boost to sales.  However, department stores as a whole have continued the downward trend, reporting a sixth consecutive decline in month on month spend.

Food retailers continue to be the smallest contributor to year on year growth with just a 0.6% increase in sales and no change to quantity bought.  As a sector, we’re seeing this area stagnate somewhat so it will be interesting to see what innovations it can come up with to increase its market share.  With the ongoing success of discount bricks and mortar providers such as Aldi and Lidl, it’s clear combining value with quality is key but I believe there’s more to the shopping experience than just this, particularly thinking about some of the partnership work we’ve supported to allow supermarket and high street brands to co-habit and benefit from the combined draw of their brands.

It’s worth noting that alongside the ONS report issued today, there have been a number of other industry reports and analysis released that show a conflicting view of the retail sector.  Data shared from the British Retail Consortium and BDO both point to a continuation of the somewhat ‘gloomy’ outlook suggested on the back of last month’s ONS report, while ONS itself is suggesting a more optimistic outlook.

From my position leading a business that is supporting the sector transform in response to what customers want from the bricks and mortar retail experience, I can say with some certainty that change is needed in the physical store space but only as part of a much wider strategic view of the whole retailing experience.  Online is here to stay, but the retailers who are seeing the greatest success are those who are blending this channel with others to make sure wherever their customers turn, there is a way to capture their spend in a way that is not overwhelming.  Quite the retail challenge!


ONS Report for May

In figures released by the ONS for May, the gloomy British weather was cited as a leading reason behind a slowing down of sales.

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