LONDON, England — LONDON'S Olympics have had a negative impact on Britain's retail sector, official data showed yesterday, although the country remained set to exit a deep recession in the third quarter.
Sales volumes in Britain fell 0.2 per cent during August compared with July, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement, as online buying suffered the biggest drop in almost five years.
The ONS also revealed that sales in August grew 2.7 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier.
However, non-store retail sales — which is mostly online business, but also includes mail order — tumbled by 6.7 per cent in August. That was the biggest monthly drop since December 2007.
"Feedback from online retailers suggests that sales were lower as consumers watched the Olympics instead of shopping online," the ONS said.
The London Games took place for a little over two weeks covering mostly the first half of August. The Paralympics, which were held also in London, occurred between August 29 and September 9.
"The (retail) survey dates for these August figures included the great majority of the Olympic Games period (27 July-12 August) with the Games appearing to have had a notable impact on some of the numbers," said Investec bank analyst Victoria Clarke.
"Indeed the sharp 'non-store' sales drop looks to be due to the Olympics having had a negative impact on online sales in particular.
"With sports fans glued to their televisions and laptops to watch events, and perhaps the Olympic ticketing site too, online sales represented their lowest proportion of total sales values since August 2011," she added.
Britain is currently mired in recession, which the coalition Conservative-Liberal Democrat government blames largely on the debt crisis in key trading partner the eurozone.
The main opposition Labour party claims that Britain's downturn is mainly a result of hefty cuts to state spending that have resulted in thousands of job losses across the civil service.
"Even after this drop, retail sales in August were still 0.6 per cent higher than three months ago, suggesting that they are likely to contribute to a brief return to positive GDP growth in the third quarter," said Samuel Tombs of Capital Economics research. This would mean an end to Britain's recession.
The number of Britain's unemployed, meanwhile, fell 7,000 to 2.59 million in the quarter to July compared with the three months to April, recent data showed, thanks in part to temporary private sector hiring for the Olympics.
Britain escaped a deep downturn in late 2009, but fell back into recession at the end of 2011. Latest official data showed that GDP shrank 0.5 per cent between April and June compared with the first quarter of this year.