Retail sales remained sluggish through October as the cost-of-living crisis continued to impact consumer confidence. 

Sales volumes excluding fuel dropped 6.7% year on year, continuing a downward trend seen since summer 2021, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

In value terms, retail sales excluding fuel increased 2.9% – and 13.1% on pre-Covid levels – driven by rampant inflation across the UK market. Sales volumes and values increased modestly month on month, up 0.3% and 1.0% respectively, as September was impacted by store closures during Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

The ONS data suggested food stores suffered the steepest sales drop during the month, where volume sales fell by 1.0% for the month, 4.1% below the pre-Covid level seen in February 2020. 

By comparison, non-food stores’ sales volumes rose by 1.1%,  leaving them 1.7% below pre-pandemic levels. 

Online retail sales volumes rose 1.8% in October, following a drop of 2.5% in September, and the proportion of sales spent online was 26.1% for the month, which the ONS described as being a broadly consistent level since May this year.