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UK Retail Sales Plunge 3.7% on Omicron Variant Concerns

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Simply Market supermarket interior.

British retail sales plummeted in December after customers avoided the high street due to the emerging spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Source: Office for National Statistics

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Total sales volumes fell 3.7% in the final month of 2021 compared to a 1% increase in November when consumers were purchasing early gifts for the Christmas Eve season amid supply chain constraints.

Fuel sales fell by 4.7% in December compared to the prior month and were 6.6% lower than the pre-Covid level. Excluding fuel sales, the decrease in sales was largely concentrated among non-food stores that dropped 7.1% on the month.

The percentage of retail sales online increased slightly to 26.6% in December from 26.3% in November, significantly higher than the 19.7% recorded in February 2020.

Retail sales are expected to bounce back, with the government lifting its Covid-19 restrictions next week as the Omicron variant eases.

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