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Economy in Brief

UK Retail Sales Strong in September, But Trend Moderates
by Carol Stone October 21, 2004

Retail sales in the UK bounced in September, surging by 1.0% in volume terms from August, and growing 6.8% from a year ago.

The strength was in household goods, "other" non-food stores (which would include car dealers and a myriad of other kinds of stores) and non-stores (i.e., on-line and mail order sales). Food stores had moderate 0.6% growth in the month and textiles and clothing were up 0.4%. Among the published store groupings, the only decline was in "non-specialized stores", where sales were down 1.0%.

In several of the categories, sales had moved markedly in the opposite direction in August. To smooth what is likely transitory volatility, the UK's Office of National Statistics tries to encourage data users to focus on three-month averages. We can look at their behavior using the Excel mode of DLXVG3 to make a spreadsheet to calculate percent changes in three-month moving averages. This reveals that the gain of 1.1% in the three months to September over the prior three months actually follows larger three-month moves in August and July, so the trend in sales may actually be slowing. Among selected categories of retailers, non-stores, which were so strong in September alone, turn out to be down on the three-month period by 1.0%. Household goods outlets, however, are maintaining their strength, up 3.3% in the latest three-month period, continuing a similar pace that yielded 3.6% in August and 3.1% in July. Thus, while total sales may be moderating a bit, British consumers continue to spend with some vigor.

% Changes, Selected Store Types Sept 2004* Aug 2004* Jul 2004* Year-Ago 2003 2002 2001
Total 1.0 0.6 -0.6 6.8 3.1 6.5 6.1
   3-Month Average 1.1 1.5 1.8        
Food 0.6 0.8 -0.7 4.1 3.3 4.1 4.1
Textiles 0.4 3.3 -1.8 8.0 6.4 10.9 9.4
Non-Stores 3.1 -2.0 -2.2 13.3 -5.4 7.2 6.2
   3-Month Average -1.0 0.8 3.8        
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