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UK retail sales fell unexpectedly in August

Supply chain issues remain a concern for the sector

UK retail sales fell by 0.9% in August as shoppers decided to spend more on eating out than in certain stores.

The Office for National Statistics revealed the fall in retail sales when compared to July, the month before.

Food store sales saw 1.2% fall, as Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said the figures are “linked to an increase in eating out following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions”.

Non-food stores saw a decrease of 1%, with lower volumes of sales in department stores.

Fuel sales rose by 1.5% as more people continued to increase the amount they travel.

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“August is often dubbed the silly season with many sectors slowing down as the country enjoys a bit of a holiday,” said Danni Hewson, AJ Bell financial analyst.

“After months of restrictions the data suggest that consumers took every opportunity to get out and socialise and that’s had a knock on to retail sales. People needed to buy less food and drink in store because they were enjoying having someone else do the cooking, restaurants and takeaways profited as did forecourts as people filled up to get out, although fuel sales are still struggling to get back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Non-food sales also tumbled despite that back-to-school push and retailers will be weighing up whether that fall was down to consumers deciding to spend their pennies elsewhere or because goods simply weren’t available.

“Department stores and clothing emporiums experienced the greatest difficulty in getting hold of goods but supply is an issue across the board,” said Hewson.

“Food stores in particular have had to shop about to get the products they require, a quick look on supermarket shelves shows some shopper favourites have been replaced with unfamiliar brands and both Morrisons and the Co-op have warned that supply issues and driver shortages are bringing price rises.”

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