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Retail sales fall in December as Omicron deters high street shoppers

By Huw Hughes

21 Jan 2022

Retail

Image: London's Regent Street via Pexels

The UK retail sector saw a drop in sales last month as the Omicron wave deterred shoppers from visiting the high street, new data shows.

Retail sales volumes fell 3.7 percent in December compared to the month before, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But that was still 2.6 percent higher than February 2019 levels, prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, as shoppers shifted to buying online.

Sales at non-food stores, which includes fashion retailers, dropped by 7.1 percent during the month following strong sales in November.

Clothing and department stores reported a fall of 8 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively.

It came as the fast spread of the Omicron variant across the country discouraged consumers from in-store shopping.

The proportion of retail sales online rose slightly to 26.6 percent in December 2021 from 26.3 percent in November.

Heather Bovill, ONS’ deputy director for surveys and economic indicators, said in a statement: “After strong pre-Christmas trading in November, retail sales fell across the board in December, with feedback from retailers suggesting Omicron impacted on footfall.”

She continued: “However, despite the fall in December, retail sales are still stronger than before the pandemic, with over a quarter of sales now made online.”

Omicron
ONS