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Shoppers switch from home improvements to fashion but overall sales fall

The ONS retail sales update for September has been released, revealing that retail sales volumes fell by 0.2% in September 2021, when compared with August 2021, but were 4.2% higher than in February 2020, before the arrival of the pandemic.

Retail sales volumes over the last three months fell by 3.9% when compared to the previous three months, partly because of strong sales in April when non-essential retailing re-opened. This is the first fall in the three-month-on-three-month series since March 2021.

Clothing and department stores reported an increase in monthly sales volume of 4.3% and 0.2%. Sales volumes were 5.5% and 5.1% below their pre-pandemic February levels. Household goods stores sales volumes fell by 9.3% largely due to a fall of 14.8% in furniture and lighting stores and were 1.0% below their levels in February 2020.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said of the data: “There was a September surge in clothing sales, as shoppers back from staycations revamped their wardrobes ready for an Autumn of socialising. With all restrictions on partying dropped, consumers splashed out on styles to go out in once again. More staff have hot footed it back to the office after an 18-month break, so it’s likely revamping work wardrobes was also a priority.”

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