Retail sales fell unexpectedly last month partly thanks to shoppers spending more money eating out than in supermarkets, official figures show.

The 0.9% decline in sales volumes in August followed a downwardly-revised slump of 2.8% in July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – and was the fourth month in a row of decline.

It painted a gloomier picture than forecast by economists, who had expected the sector to stage a partial recovery last month.

The ONS said food store sales fell by 1.2% last month “with some evidence to suggest that the further easing of hospitality restrictions had an impact on sales” as consumers “increased their social spending such as eating and drinking at restaurants and bars”.

Non-food sales dipped by 1%, driven by department stores as well as sports equipment and computer outlets.

Despite the declines, overall retail sales were slightly ahead of the same month a year ago and 4.6% up on pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.


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