Retail spending bounced back into growth in April, results today reveal, as UK consumers were cheered by the double bonus of sunny bank holidays and the royal wedding.
After a record decline in like-for-like (LFL) sales of 3.5 per cent in March, consumers pushed LFL trading up 5.2 per cent year-on-year last month with total sales rising 6.9 per cent.
According to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG, Food sales saw the biggest increase in April of any segment, but fashion sales also benefitted from shoppers looking to bolster their warm weather wardrobes.
Stephen Robertson, Director General of the BRC, said: “Easter and the royal wedding bank holiday provided a badly needed boost to many retailers during April. Food sales were strong leading up to Good Friday, suggesting most families prioritised their spending on the Easter celebrations.
“The hottest April since records began got people out spending on summer clothing and footwear.”
Comparisons were helped by spending during last April declining due to uncertainty surrounding the General Election result, but even so last month was a vast improvement on recent national sales results.
Clothing showed its largest gain since February 2010, with menswear and childrenswear the best sellers but underlying economic fears were still recognisable in people’s purchase choices, with items in promotions and or part of deals remaining the most popular.
Trading in big-ticket items and other indoor products continued to struggle however and on a three-month weighted average to April non-food sales still fell 1.3 per cent LFL whilst food sales grew 2.1 per cent on a LFL basis compared to the same period in 2010.
Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail at KPMG, commented: “Most sectors showed a significant uplift on the prior year and on recent months, with food, drink, clothing and footwear leading the way. The question now is whether this is indicative of a corner having been turned from the longer term downward trend in demand.
“Given the three-month average is still heading in a downward direction with 1.8 per cent total and 0.1 per cent sales growth for February to April compared to 2.7 per cent total and 0.8 per cent for the three months to January, this is unlikely to be case.
“Hence, the majority of retailers remain cautious about the outlook for the remainder of the year.”
Internet, mail order and phone sales also returned to form in April, with a 13.7 per cent year-on-year growth - a vast improvement on the disappointing 7.5 per cent increase the month before.