The UK's retail sales volumes fell by 2.5 per cent in July from June despite the easing of coronavirus restrictions, but still 5.8 per cent higher than the pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Food store sales volumes dropped monthly by 1.5 per cent in July, following an increase in the previous month when sales were boosted by the Euro 2020 football championship, while non-food stores sales volumes plunged by 4.4 per cent in July compared with June, Xinhua news agency quoted the ONS as saying on Friday.
Meanwhile, automotive fuel sales volumes decreased by 2.9 per cent over the month, marking the first monthly fall since February 2021, the ONS data showed.
"Disappointing 2.5 per cent m/m fall in UK retail sales in July is hard to explain," said British independent economist Julian Jessop, adding that "hopefully just reflects end of Euros, diversion of spending to hospitality etc. as Covid restrictions lifted, and bad weather. But perhaps also shortages of some goods due to global supply chain problems".
Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, an economic research consultancy, said he wouldn't attribute July's fall to people returning to restaurants.
"Non-food sales fell more than food. Disruption and fear caused by the Delta wave was the dominant driver."
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said the lifting of restrictions "did not bring the anticipated in-store boost, with the wet weather leaving consumers reluctant to visit shopping destinations".
England lifted almost all its remaining Covid-19 restrictions since July 19.
More than 87 per cent of people aged 16 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 75 per cent have received both doses, the latest figures showed.