Cold Weather And Cautious Shoppers Dented Retail Sales Last Month

Latest figures from the BRC – KPMG Retail Sales Monitor show that like-for-like retail sales fell 0.9% in April, the biggest drop seen since last August. Total sales were flat with positive food sales offset by record declines in fashion as the cold weather affected sales of spring and summer lines.

As a result, the 12-month average growth for non-food sales slowed to 2.5% while food sales nudged back into positive territory at 0.1%.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “Overall, flat total sales mask a very mixed picture; some retailers benefitting from the healthy housing market, while others are evidently more susceptible to the effects of lower consumer confidence and a higher proportion of disposable income going into leisure and entertainment. While glimmers of hope are evident, the rapid pace of change in the industry, increasing cost pressures and other businesses burdens remain a cause for concern.”

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail at KPMG, added: “Overall, retail sales slowed during April with temperatures well below the average for the time of year. Looking at the three months to April, non-food like-for-like growth was particularly weak, especially for fashion and footwear, as the cooler weather dampened the launch of spring/summer ranges.

“On the brighter side, furniture and home accessories continued to fare well as retailers reaped the benefits of well-timed promotions. And there was also some mild relief for the grocers with total food and drink sales inching up slightly versus April 2015. However, as consumers still appear to be hooked on a diet of discounts, deflationary trends in the sector look set to continue.

“With warm spring-like conditions now prevailing, fashion retailers will be hoping this will motivate the summer wardrobe refresh, and the grocers will be looking forward to a summer of sporting events in the hopes the feel good factor will encourage consumer spending.”