Retail sales increased by value last month but volumes declined, the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data revealed. 

Sales, excluding fuel, rose 3.6% by value year on year in November and advanced 0.7% month on month. However, there was a 5.9% slide by volume year on year, and month-on-month sales edged down 0.3%.

Compared to February 2020, sales by value were up 14.1% and ahead 0.2% by volume.

Sales volumes at non-store businesses, predominantly online retailers, fell 2.8% over the month, ”continuing a downward trend seen since early 2021, as the wider economy reopened and people could return to shopping in-store”, the ONS said. However, they were still 18.2% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Non-food stores’ volumes slipped 0.6% and were 1.8% below February 2020 levels.

Food store volumes rose were up 0.9% in November 2022 ”with anecdotal evidence from retailers suggesting that customers stocked up early for Christmas”.

PwC industry leader for consumer markets Lisa Hooker said: “The real test for the retail sector will be how it fares this month, in the face of colder weather and strikes affecting public transport – making it harder to get to high streets – and postal delivery services potentially discouraging online shoppers from making last-minute purchases.”