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UK retail suffers dismal April sales amidst weather woes and Easter timing

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Leeds high street Credits: Unsplash

April's retail sales in the UK took a hit, dropping by 4 percent compared to the same period last year, according to data from the British Retail Consortium. The timing of Easter played a role in this decline, with the holiday falling in March this year as opposed to April last year, skewing year-on-year comparisons. To counteract this distortion, combined March and April sales figures were provided, revealing a modest growth of 0.2 percent.

Despite efforts to entice shoppers with discounts, both in-store and online sales saw declines. In-store non-food sales, which includes sales of clothing and accessories, fell by 2.4 percent compared to the same period last year, while online non-food sales dropped by 5.5 percent. However, there was a slight uptick in the online penetration rate, with 36.2 percent of non-food items purchased online in April.

Sales of health and beauty outpaced fashion

The gloomy weather in April dampened sales growth across various sectors, particularly clothing and footwear. However, there were pockets of resilience, such as health, beauty, and personal care categories, as well as a surprising return to positive growth in computing sales, both in-store and online.

Experts attribute the sluggish consumer spending to cautious behavior following two years of budgeting and cost-cutting measures. While economic conditions are improving, consumers are still hesitant to loosen their purse strings.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said in a statement: “Dismal weather and disappointing sales led to a depressing start to Spring for retailers, even accounting for the change in timing of Easter. People delayed typical Spring purchases despite retailers’ attempts to entice customers with heavy discounts. A dull, wet April dampened sales growth for clothing and footwear, especially outdoor sportswear, as well as DIY and garden furniture. Promotions in computing did boost sales as many sought to upgrade their tech a few years post the pandemic surge in tech sales. Many retailers are hoping for brighter sales over the summer months as social events ramp up, and consumer confidence could improve with a potential cut in interest rates.

“A strong retail industry is vital for a strong economy, and it is vital the next Government recognises this if it wants to boost investment in our towns and cities. Retail is nearly 10 percent of employment in every region and plays a unique role in building communities and generating local economic growth. The Government must champion pro-growth policies to help unlock important investment in many left-behind regions.”