Would anyone be able to explain the difference between 'decrease in custom' and 'decrease in sales'. For example, what would one make of reading:

'There's a decrease in custom in our region.'


'There's a decrease of sales in our region.'?

Thanks to everyone for their replies,

Still hoping of being more helpful to people who'd like to help I'm suppling the context of the phrases in question:

Company directors of a UK energy company are discussing the company's sales figures:

They aknowledge that 'sales figures in their region are down', then ask the Customer Service director:

-(Managing Director): Do you have any ideas why this downturn in sales is happening?

-(C.S. Director): It's true, we're seeing a decrease in custom in our region. There's also an increase in customers cancelling new contracts.

-(Colleague): But do you know why? Do the customers say why they don't like our offers?

Could the phrase 'decrease in custom' be used because the company deal with energy contracts? Could it be because it doesn't refer to the specific company's custom but the region's in general?....

  • 1
    A decrease in custom is a decrease in habitual patronage: i.e., people shopping in a store. A decrease in sales is more specific. While custom can mean just visiting a shop but perhaps not buying anything, sales refers to actual purchases.
    – Robusto
    Mar 22, 2020 at 16:49
  • Provide more context if you want help. Mar 22, 2020 at 16:49
  • 2
    I'll note that using "custom" in this sense would not be at all idiomatic in the US.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 22, 2020 at 17:14
  • 1
    @HotLicks ... agreed: My dictionary lists this usage of custom as "British".
    – GEdgar
    Mar 24, 2020 at 20:00

1 Answer 1


Custom refers to “regular dealings with a shop or business by customers” so could be taken to have a somewhat broader meaning than sales, although I suspect that the intent here is largely a desire to keep the language from being too repetitive. A large part depends on the context. In a technical document (e.g., a government report), it's more likely to have a significant difference in meaning than in something less formal such as news reporting.

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