Shoppers have continued to shun the high street with sales volumes falling for the fifth consecutive month, the longest continuous stretch on record.
The drop was largely down to plummeting sales in non-food shops, with lighting and furniture businesses the hardest hit, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Retail chiefs laid the blame at the doorstep of Government and urged ministers to find ways to reduce the issues with supply chains and high energy costs.
Shopping chiefs urged the Government to ease supply chain problems to stop plummeting sales in stores across the UK (File image)
She said: ‘Fuel shortages, wet weather and low consumer confidence all contributed to lower consumer demand this month, with household goods, furniture and books all hit particularly hard.
‘Retailers will be concerned by the slump in sales, just as they begin their preparations for the all-important Christmas period.
‘Labour shortages across the supply chains, on farms, factories, warehouses and lorry drivers, all threaten to derail this recovery and it is vital that Government finds a long-term solution to this problem.’
Commentators said the rest of the year could see traditional festive shopping patterns shift as a result of the problems.
Retail expert Silvia Rindone, from Ernst and Young, said: ‘Over recent years, shoppers have tended to wait until late December to buy for Christmas in the hope of bagging some great bargains.
‘This year, with news of supply chain disruption and supply concerns for key products, shoppers are likely to pull forward their non-perishable Christmas spending into October and November to make sure they get what they want.’
Retail sales dropped by 0.2 per cent in September compared to August, although were higher than in February 2020, before coronavirus hit the markets
Non-food shops such as those selling furniture and lighting were the hardest-hit in Britain, according to the Office for National Statistics
Darren Morgan is the chief of economic statistics at ONS.
He said: ‘Despite the lifting of restrictions, in-store retail sales remain subdued, with many consumers still opting to shop online.
‘Household goods were the main driver of this month’s decline, with a fall of nearly 10 per cent, while food sales ticked back up after falling last month.
‘Petrol sales exceeded their pre-pandemic level for the first time, with filling stations reporting very strong sales during the last week of September.’
Sales volumes in September were down 0.2 per cent, following a 0.6 per cent fall in August, although they remain 4.2 per cent above pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.
Although sales were generally down, petrol saw a rise in sales as consumers panicked about fuel shortages
Sales for household goods decreased by almost 10 per cent in the last month, prompting retail chiefs to call for government action
Fuel sales rose in the final weeks of September as panic buying led to many forecourts running dry after suppliers said the HGV driver shortage was affecting deliveries. Fuel sales rose 2.9 per cent.
Food sales volumes were also up by 0.6 per cent, the ONS added, and remain 3.9 per cent above pre-Covid levels.
But while shoppers opted to avoid high streets, sales online continued to rise and now account for 28.1 per cent of all spending – up from 27.9 per cent in August.
There was a particular surge in department store sales online, up by 3.8 per cent, meaning nearly 10p in every £1 spent online goes to the likes of John Lewis, Debenhams or House of Fraser, the ONS said.
By comparison, household goods stores saw a 3.6% drop in online sales.