UK retail sales increased by 5.6% in the four weeks to 29 April 2017, compared with April 2016, when they had decreased 0.9% from the preceding year, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
On a total basis, sales rose 6.3% in April, against flat growth in April 2016. The performance is positively distorted by the timing of Easter and the highest since April 2011, another Easter distortion. This pulls the 3-month average to 2.0%, above the 12-month average of 1.3%.
Over the three-months to April, Food sales increased 2.4% on a like-for-like basis and 3.6% on a total basis. This is much faster than the 12-month Total average growth of 2.0%, the highest since February 2014.
Over the three-months to April, Non-Food retail sales in the UK increased 0.3% on a like-for-like basis and 0.7% on a total basis, almost in line with the 12-month Total average growth to 0.8%.
Over the three-months to April, Online sales of Non-Food products grew 8.2% while In-store sales declined 1.3% on a Total basis and 1.8% on a like-for-like basis, roughly in line with the 12-month average decline of 1.7%.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “As expected, the Easter holidays provided the welcome boost to retail sales, which goes some way to making up for the disappointing start to the year. That said, the positive distortion from the timing of Easter was largely responsible for the month’s growth and looking to the longer-term signs of a slowdown, the outlook isn’t as rosy.
“Taking a closer look at the sales figures, consumer spend on food and non-food items is diverging. Food categories continue to contribute the most weight to overall growth, although food inflation has a part to play in this. Meanwhile, consumers are being more cautious in their spending towards non-food products and focussing more on value priced lines.
“Shop prices are still down overall although other items of consumer spending are increasing headline inflation and hence driving a tightening of purse strings. Although today’s figures do indicate that consumers are still willing to spend, with a cocktail of rising costs and slowing wage growth as the backdrop, conditions for consumers will get tougher. The next Government needs to deliver a plan that puts consumers first in its economic policies and the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.”
Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG, said: “April’s sales provided a brief period of respite for retailers following a relentless start to the year. However, much of the rise was driven by the timing of Easter and the growing inflationary pressures the sector is facing, rather than a sudden upswing in consumer confidence.
“Food and drink sales soared significantly in April, suggesting that feasts remain at the heart of festive holidays. That said, in the ultra-competitive grocery sector, these growth figures should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt, with margins under significant pressure and profitability remaining a concern.
“The growth in sales of children’s clothes and toys points to parents making the most of school holidays and keeping the kids entertained. Meanwhile, the rise in furniture sales suggests that springtime home improvements have been kicked into gear.
“Looking ahead, retailers need to ensure that this month’s boost doesn’t lull them into a false sense of security. The retail landscape is changing fast and as such, agility and the ability to manage costs will remain critical.”
Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive, IGD, said: “April’s food and grocery sales are best viewed in combination with March to iron out the changing date of Easter. Sales across this two-month period were up by around 4 per cent on last year, exceptional growth by all recent standards. Partly, this is due to the return of some food inflation but the underlying demand for groceries was also very robust.
“The public remains in a state of uncertainty though and we cannot be sure how long the good run will last. The number of shoppers expecting to be better off in the year ahead has dipped to 21 per cent from 24 per cent last month.”