UK retail sales volumes declined in November as stores were forced to temporarily close during England’s second national lockdown, new figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes fell 3.8% last month compared with October.
However, the ONS said overall sales remained above pre-pandemic levels amid continued strong growth in online sales.
It was above the expectations of analysts, who had forecast a 4.1% slump in retail sales for month.
Lower clothing sales were a significant factor contributing to the slump, the ONS said, tumbling by 19% compared with the previous month.
In November, food and household goods were the only sectors to show growth in monthly volume of sales, with improvements of 3.1% and 1.6% respectively as stores remained open due to essential status.
The ONS said retailers suggested that food sales in November were boosted by restrictions to hospitality operators such as bars and restaurants.
Online sales continued to surge as consumers completed Christmas shopping digitally while stores were shut, with online sales 74.7% higher than the same month last year.
Deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: “After a run of strong growth, retail sales fell back in November as restrictions meant many stores had to close their doors again.
“Clothing and fuel were particularly hit by the winter lockdown, with their sales falling sharply.
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) December 18, 2020
“Household goods and food shops were the only areas to see their monthly sales increase, with feedback from stores suggesting consumers brought forward their Christmas spending, particularly on festive home products and DIY.
“Food sales, especially click and collect, were boosted as people were not able to eat out.”
Silvia Rindone, EY UK & Ireland retail partner, said: “The impact of the November lockdown is clear from the latest retail sales figures, with consumers continuing to shop more online.
“Physical shops are hoping to catch up on trading in the remaining festive period – where possible – and many retailers are under acute pressure.
“Retailers need to think about the longer term and evolve to meet seemingly permanent changes in consumer habits.
“They need to think deeply about how to make the online and in-store buying and shopping experience smoother and more relevant, and about how they can make targeted choices which make their customers’ lives easier.”