Retail sales fell in October to their lowest level since the February 2021 lockdown as the cost-of-living crisis combined with unseasonable weather took its toll on retailers, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Shoppers on rainy high street

Unseasonable weather in October put off sales of winter clothing

Sales by value increased 2.2% year on year and grew 0.1% month on month.

However, sales by volume decreased 2.7% year on year and also dipped 0.3% from September to October.

Food store sales volumes fell 0.3% in October compared to being “unchanged” in the previous month.

Non-food store sales volumes fell 0.2% in October, after a 2.1% dip in September, due to a combination of “cost of living, reduced footfall and the wet weather in the second half of the month”.

Alvarez & Marsal European retail and consumer lead Erin Brookes said the second consecutive decrease in retail sales “does not bode well for the high street” ahead of Christmas.

“Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 0.2%, as the unseasonably warm weather in October put off sales of winter clothing,” she said.

“Ahead of Black Friday next week and the busiest month of the year for retailing in December, retail bosses need to focus on the fundamentals to encourage shoppers to spend.

This year’s Christmas adverts are much more focused on celebrating, entertaining and gifting, compared with previous years’ ‘storytelling’. This focus is likely a desire to have a clearer communication message to visit and shop in this highly competitive period.

“Delivering this value as well as quality, ensuring good levels of stock and a seamless online and in-store experience will determine this year’s Christmas winners and losers.”