Retail like-for-likes jumped 5.6% in April and total sales recorded their best performance since 2011 as the late timing of Easter boosted purchases.
We break down the industry’s sales performance last month sector by sector.
Food – up
Grocery sales posted their strongest performance on a three-month basis since July 2013, up 3.6% during the period in contrast with a 0.2% fall the previous year.
Celebratory drinks sold well in April as shoppers gathered for festive meals, and sales were also boosted by warmer weather during the Easter period, which prompted increased purchases of ice cream, salad and soft drinks.
Average basket size grew 2.8% in the month on a three-month basis, according to data by the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index.
Fashion – up
Clothing sales were up on a total and like-for-like basis as the shift of the Easter school holidays spurred a spike in children’s clothing purchases, which were the key driver of sales increases during the month.
By contrast, womenswear items posted a fall in sales, despite strong demand for denim product and occasionwear.
The warmer weather at the beginning of the month meant that sunglasses sold well in April, though fashion retailers struggled to convert footfall into sales as many shoppers prioritised browsing over buying.
Footwear – down
Footwear sales were up in April on a total and like-for-like basis. However, this result comes against soft comparables, as April was the weakest month for the sector last year.
As with fashion, the late falling of the Easter break coaxed children’s footwear sales, while the warm weather also boosted sales in the womenswear segment, driven by purchases of sandals and plimsolls.
Men’s footwear was the only segment to decline during the period, and sales across the sector posted a rise on a three-month basis.
Health and beauty – down
Although sales rose in the health and beauty sector on a total basis, like-for-likes were down during the period as shoppers shifted to more conservative spending.
Retailers noticed shoppers choosing own-brand over branded products and prioritising lower-priced items, as well as discounted products.
Beauty continued to outperform health sales, driven by increased demand for skincare products.
Furniture – up
Although sales were up on a total and like-for-like basis last month, many retailers in the sector were disappointed with the category’s overall performance during the period.
On a three-month basis, furniture posted its weakest performance since February 2013 and ranked fifth in the league table of sector-by-sector performance on a monthly basis for April.
A slowdown in demand was felt across all product categories in the sector, with a particular drop in purchases of big-ticket items.
Home accessories – up
The sector pulled in a disappointing performance on a three-month basis, which could be a consequence of the revival of fashion and footwear sectors in recent months.
Nevertheless, total and like-for-like sales increased last month, with cooking and dining products recording the strongest sales performance.
House textiles – down
House textiles came last in the sector by sector rankings last month and was the only category to post a fall in total sales.
Retailers noted that shoppers seemed less inclined to buy higher-priced bespoke items in favour of more economical ready-made options.
Toys and baby equipment – up
The sector posted the second-strongest sales performance during the period as the timing of the Easter break, combined with more clement weather, drove sales of outdoor toys.
Baby equipment was also a star performer in the category.
Household appliances – up
Sales of household appliances increased during the month, but it was still down on a three-month average as small household appliances dragged down overall purchases.
White goods items, by contrast, sold well.
Jewellery and watches – up
The category recorded the strongest sales performance in the sector rankings both for the previous month and on a 12-month basis as tourist spend, compounded by the weak sterling, drove purchases.
Other non-food – up
Other non-food sales were up during the period, albeit against weak comparables; electricals and leisure goods drove the strongest overall sales in the non-food category.