British retail sales volumes unexpectedly fell last month in what is now their longest streak of declines since current records began, though sales volumes still remain above pre-pandemic levels, official data showed on Friday.
Sales dropped 0.9% on the month in August versus economists' average forecasts in a Reuters poll for a rise of 0.5%, leading to their fourth consecutive monthly decline after previous months were revised lower, the Office for National Statistics said.
August's drop appeared partly to reflect reduced supermarket sales as more people ate outside home following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, statisticians added.
Sales volumes are still 4.6% higher than their level in February 2020 before they were first hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retail sales had dropped 2.8% on the month in July, which the ONS said stores attributed to poor weather and some shoppers preferring to follow England's success in the Euro 2020 soccer tournament early in the month.
July also marked the peak in a wave of cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus which required hundreds of thousands of British people to self-isolate and slammed the brakes on broader economic growth.
Last month the Confederation of British Industry reported a surge in sales in the first half of August, but the British Retail Consortium said sales growth was more modest for the month as a whole.
Many retailers have been struggling too to keep their shelves fully stocked due to supply chain bottlenecks, caused by a mix of global shortages following the pandemic and a lack of truck drivers in Britain.