April retail sales fall “off a cliff” amid record decline

April retail sales

Retail sales growth fell “off a cliff” in April after a record decline, thanks to the timing of Easter and its impact on consumer spending.

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for the month of April, UK retail sales went down 4.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared with April 2017.

On a total basis, sales declined 3.1 per cent in April year-on-year – the sharpest decline recorded since the monthly sales monitor started in January 1995.

However, the monitor indicated that April’s figures were distorted by the timing of Easter this year as shoppers did much of their stocking up in March.

“April’s figures show retail sales growth falling off a cliff, with sales down 3.1 per cent on last year, but we must exercise caution and remember that the timing of Easter makes meaningful month-on-month comparisons difficult,” KPMG head of retail Paul Martin.

He added: “April saw all seasons rolled into one, from a dreary and wet Easter to more welcome sunny spells.

“Fashion sales received a much-needed boost, but otherwise the sales were disappointing for the rest of the high street.”

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The first glimpse of summer may have temporarily lifted clothing and footwear, but non-food sales overall continue to be weak.

“Consumers’ discretionary spending power remains under pressure and the reality is, that with only a gradual return to solid growth in real incomes expected, the market environment is likely to remain extremely challenging for most retailers.”

Meanwhile, separate data from Barclaycard found consumer spending increased by 3.4 per cent year-on-year in April.

Managing director Paul Lockstone said: “The UK seems to be caught in a holding pattern, with people still budgeting carefully.

“Looking ahead, uncertainty around interest rates is weighing on the minds of many, with people prepared to cut back on non-essentials in order to cope with a rate rise.”

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