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PwC comments on January 2022 ONS retail sales figures


Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for January 2022

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:

“January is never a normal month for retail, and this one is no exception, with both December and January’s sales depressed by Omicron and work from home restrictions. Therefore, care needs to be taken in reading too much into the headline retail sales increase reported today, with the 2% month-on-month value increase following a 3.4% decline last month. Overall sales are at least 9.1% ahead of pre-pandemic levels, albeit by only 3.6% on a volume basis, suggesting that inflation accounts for much of the increased spend.

“On a sector basis, the decline in grocery volumes can be explained by a normalisation in shopping activity as pandemic behaviours revert more to normal; fashion spending struggled as events were cancelled as a result of Omicron; and the increase in household goods and furniture sales suggests a return to the more usual new year pattern of investing in the home.

“There was also some respite for the high street as the proportion of online sales continued to abate from pandemic highs of over 36% to just 25%, partly as a result of softness in more online-friendly categories such as electricals and fashion.

“Not only is January atypical of wider shopping patterns, but it is also a relatively low spending month. So we can’t yet read much into what this means for the rest of 2022. What is certain is that the triple squeeze of cost of living increases, tax rises and interest rate hikes are for the most part yet to hit consumers’ wallets. The question for retailers is when this will hit spending, and which sectors will be most affected. They will certainly be bracing for the impending storm, and not just Storm Eunice.”


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