Sales across the UK’s retail sector fell in August for the fourth consecutive month, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The decline in sales was recorded as being worth 0.9 per cent in August, with four months of declining sales representing an unprecedented streak.
Retail sales across the country peaked in April, shortly after shops were reopened following a lengthy Covid-induced lockdown in winter.
Economists have been surprised by the figures for August and are attributing the decline in sales in part to an increase in demand for eating out, with restaurants and pubs having only been allowed to fully reopen in July.
Retail sales figures for July though were recently revised down by the ONS to show a notable 2.8 per cent slump.
The data on retail performance in August and other recent months is being taken as potentially indicative of a more general slowing of the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery.
However, retailers have found themselves faced with severe supply chain problems and labour shortages this summer, which is thought to have hindered their recent progress.
The ONS has also said there is “some evidence to suggest that the further easing of hospitality restrictions had an impact on sales” among food retailers.
Fashion sales bucked the wider retail trend in August and increased by 0.7 per cent in the month, as did fuel sales, with more people returning to their workplaces after having worked from home in winter.
Samuel Tombs from Pantheon Macroeconmics has said: “August’s retail sales data bring more evidence that the recovery in consumers’ spending has lost considerable momentum in Q3.”
Earlier this month, the British Retail Consortium’s chief executive Helen Dickinson said that “post-lockdown pent-up demand” among consumers softened during the summer months.
She also warned that unless the government is willing to reduce “the burden of business rates that are holding back investment” then there will continue to be more shop closures across the country.
The BRC’s own figures show that rates of footfall at retail stores across the UK remained “significantly down on pre-pandemic levels” during August.