Retail sales in the UK fell slightly in August, driven by weaker online sales as consumers watched the Olympics, official figures revealed.
Sales volumes in non-store retailing, which includes Internet and mail order transactions, fell by 6.7% between July and August – the biggest drop recorded since December 2007.
Overall, UK retail sales in August declined by 0.2%, following a 0.3% rise in July. The proportion of Internet sales decreased by 0.9% between July and August, as many people chose to watch the London Olympic Games on television rather than shop on the Internet, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
There was also a positive impact from London 2012, however, as total retail sales were up 2.7% in August compared with the same month a year ago and the ONS reported that this growth was driven by increased sales of sporting goods and toys.
“Feedback from these stores suggests that sales were boosted by an increase in sales of football shirts with the start of the new season and the European Championship but also from increased sales as a result of the Olympics,” the statistics agency noted.
The average weekly spend for all retailing in August 2012 amounted to GBP6.5bn, down from GBP6.6bn in July 2012 but an increase from GBP6.3bn in August 2011. Over the month, consumers spent an average of GBP466.1m online each week in August 2012.
Commenting on today’s figures, the British Retail Consortium said that its own findings support the assertion from the ONS that the Olympics distracted many consumers from buying.
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), commented that the retail sales figures for August support the BCC’s assessment that GDP is likely to return to positive growth in the third quarter of this year. He added, however, that the pace of the recovery is still too modest and the UK economy is likely to face a prolonged period of low growth until excessive debt levels are reduced.