April provided ample evidence of the structural changes hitting retailers throughout 2011.
The royal wedding, coupled with warm weather, helped sales soar 5.2% by value and 2.7% by volume in April, according to the Office for National Statistics. Consumers stocked up on souvenirs and groceries. Waitrose’s sales for the week ending April 30 surged 23.1%, while M&S champagne sales were their strongest since Christmas 2008.
April provided ample evidence of the structural changes hitting retailers throughout 2011. Next boss Lord Wolfson predicted a tough year for the sector as the retailer issued full-year results, warning things were likely to get worse before they got better. Dixons’ trading update illustrated his point. The electricals retailer posted an 11% decline in like-for-likes in the 11 weeks to March 26, despite its progress with customer service and store environment.
“Retailing will feel like walking up the down escalator – we will have to work hard to stand still”
March’s BRC sales figures, released in April, were the worst in 16 years and did little to lift spirits. Tesco was feeling the effects, too, with new chief executive Philip Clarke admitting its UK performance was “below par” after fourth-quarter UK like-for-like sales fell 0.7%.
But focusing on doom and gloom ignores the huge strides retailers made this year in responding to difficult times and evolving to meet customer demands. Harvey Nichols revealed plans to test new formats such as a beauty standalone store, Morrisons picked affluent Yorkshire town Ilkley to pilot its first convenience store and Clinton Cards launched a new hi-tech shopfit in a bid to entice shoppers. Sainsbury’s, meanwhile, was on the expansion trail, with its focus on quality and value striking a chord with hard-pressed shoppers.
The grocer also moved into the top 10 fashion retailers by volume, moving up the Kantar rankings as its fashion credibility grew.
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B&Q operations director Martyn Phillips was promoted to B&Q UK and Ireland chief executive, to free up Euan Sutherland, UK and Ireland boss of parent company Kingfisher, to focus on strategic group responsibilities.
- BRC retail sales figures +5.2%