Shoppers and shops stymied by shortages (ONS)

6.5% of retail businesses couldn’t get the materials, goods or services they needed from within the UK in mid-August. Department stores suffered the most at 18.3%, followed by clothing stores at 11.1%.

Another 8.9% could get what they needed, but had to change suppliers or find alternative solutions in order to do so. Over 22% of food stores reported this.

Food store sales fell 1.2%, as more easing of hospitality rules meant we did more of our eating and drinking out of the house. Social spending rose at the same time.

Non-food stores saw sales fall 1% and are now 0.4% lower than pre-pandemic levels (February 2020). This was driven by falls in department stores (down 3.7% and 5% below pre-pandemic levels).

Overall, retail sales fell another 0.9% in August, after dropping 2.8% in July. However, sales volumes were 4.6% higher than their pre-pandemic levels.

The proportion of retail sales taking place online rose to 27.1% – compared to 19.7% before the pandemic.

The ONS retail sales update for August has been released: Retail sales, Great Britain: August 2021 – Office for National Statistics (

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown: “Shoppers and shops were stymied by shortages in August. Keeping the shelves full was a real battle, especially for department stores, which is one reason why we spent less in these stores in August. Supermarkets had a fight on their hands to keep supply chains flowing, but the might of these retailers meant they were able to track down alternative suppliers so we could keep filling our trolleys.

“Our passion for the big shop dimmed slightly in August, as we rediscovered our passion for a big night out. We spent more in bars and restaurants, and bought 1.2% less in food stores than in July. However, there are signs that life hasn’t entirely returned to normal, and we’re still spending more time raiding the fridge and parking ourselves on the sofa, because we’re still buying 3.4% more in supermarkets than before the pandemic.

“Given so many of us holidayed at home, and in the rain, this year, it’s not surprising that we splashed the cash in stores like computer retailers and sports equipment shops. Sales here are up 4.5% from before the pandemic. However, there are signs that shortages were an issue here too, because sales were down 1.2% in the month.”