Retail figures suffer with Olympic effect

For the nay-sayers out there, here's your moment: the Olympics did indeed dampen retail sales in August.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 06 Sep 2013

Well, we guess it was sort of to be expected. The wild popularity of the Olympic games in the UK kept Brits distracted from their usual shopping habits throughout August. New data released by the Office for National Statistics shows that sales volumes fell 0.2% from July, and the report puts the drop mainly down to a fall in online sales. Collectively it seems the general public had their eyes glued to television screens rather than one-click ordering websites for the period.

But, look at the bigger picture, and there’s not much to moan about. Year-on-year figures show that retail sales rose 2.7% in August compared with the same period the previous year. The ONS said specifically that sporting goods stores and also toyshops enjoyed a boost in sales from the Olympics and the start of the football season. The difference is that online retail accounted for 8.1% of total sales, down from 9% in July. What an irony that the greatest sporting event on earth could make the majority of interested people even more likely just to veg in front of the TV…

After the opening weekend of the Olympics, there was indeed a lot of hype about how TfL’s campaign to clear central London had been too effective. Many retailers complained of near-empty streets and some reported footfall down 30% on the same week the previous year, and criticised LOCOG for being over-zealous in its handling of the Games’ logistical hurdles, so to speak. But with the year-on-year figures up on the previous year, it seems to us that there is little to complain about…

The British Chambers of Commerce said that the latest figures represent a smaller-than-expected monthly fall in sales, and that thanks to the year-on-year increase in sales the UK is still on course for a return to positive GDP growth in the third quarter. Realistically, who can balk at that?

Economy Retail

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