April retail sales more than double expectations

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Retail Sales

Retail sales enjoyed an unexpected boost in April in some good news for the embattled high street.

According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, retail sales rose 1.6 per cent in April compared to March, which saw a 1.2 per cent decline.

The boost, which saw all sectors except department stores experience growth, came well above analysts’ expectations of a 0.7 per cent increase.

On a three-month by three-month basis, sales largely stayed flat, seeing a 0.1 per cent rise in sales.

“Retail sales bounced back in April, as petrol and other sales recovered from the snowfall,” ONS head of national accounts Rob Kent-Smith said.

“But the underlying position remains subdued with the volume of goods sold over the last six months broadly unchanged.

“Increases were seen across all sectors in April, except department stores. Department stores declined following relatively strong sales last month, when their online sales were boosted during the adverse weather.”

Department stores struggled to keep up with the rest of the sector over the month, with M&S, House of Fraser and John Lewis all struggling to maintain sales growth, leading to an overall 0.9 per cent drop.

“Over the longer-term, retail sales growth has slowed considerably, with increases in food, household goods and internet retailers being largely offset by declines across all other types of retailing,” Kent-Smith said.

Combined sales of March and April revealed a general slowdown in growth compared to a year prior, dropping from 2.9 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

Online sales continued to grow, now accounting for 17.3 per cent of overall retail sales, up from 16.1 per cent in 2017.

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