Retail Sales Figures

Here we go again, monthly numbers show a less than 1% fall and doom and gloom prevails.

Why do we use these numbers without looking a longer period. The headline is “…In January 2013, year-on-year seasonally adjusted estimates of the quantity bought in the retail sector fell by 0.6%…” not a good headline, however,  for the last 3 months the value is a 0.8% fall. Looking at the last  3 months compared with the previous 3 months the fall is 0.6%. Still a fall but not as severe as the one month data suggests.

However the comparing the Value of last 3 months sales with those of the comparable 3 months last year shows an increase of 1.8% in retail sales value(excl fuel) or an increase of 0.8% (inc fuel). these 2 figures also show the sensitivity of the statistics to a single products stream, in this case fuel sales which we all know is dependant on the weather.

So what do we make of the statistics. Sales value has increased but volume has reduced. Well I suppose that is to be expected as salaries are only increasing a small amount and cost of living is increasing more so the although the value of the goods we buy increases with the available cash, the quantity of what we buy decreases.

The point I wish to make is that the statistics take many variables and compiling into a single indicator as an interpretation of the overall retail sales market would seem optimistic at best.

I would recommend publishing the sector results such as food, non food, household items etc in the published summary as opposed to a single number which requires a detailed investigation to try to understand the reason for the variances.

To see the full range of statistics available from the office of national statistics click here

Guide to Retail Sales statistics video

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