UK retail sales were flat in March while like-for-likes edged down 0.7%, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
Food – down
The downward trajectory of grocers’ sales continued for the third consecutive month in March as the sector’s three-month average dropped 0.7%. Food sales’ 12-month average also fell back into negative territory for the first time since last July, at -0.3%. Disappointing food sales were exacerbated by this year’s early Easter Sunday, when many supermarkets close for the day, being included in March’s monitor.
Clothing – down
Clothing reported its worst decline in sales since September 2014 and was second-to-last in the growth rankings. Changeable weather impacted the sales of fashion retailers’ spring and summer ranges, with womenswear and kidswear sales down. Menswear was the only segment in this category to report growth in the month.
Footwear – down
Footwear was the worst-performing category for the second consecutive month in March and reported its worst decline since last September. All segments of this category reported a decrease in sales; revenue was also down across all channels as inconsistent weather and the timing of the Easter holidays had an impact.
Health and beauty – down
Health and beauty was one of only three categories where stores reported increased sales, although like-for-likes were down. Make-up sales were boosted by demand for contouring products while fragrances reported another strong performance.
Furniture – up
Furniture was top of the growth ranking table for the third consecutive month, although this result will be distorted by the early arrival of Easter this year. Both stores and online saw a sales uplift, with bedding furniture reporting particularly strong growth.
Home accessories – down
Home accessories like-for-likes were down, despite both stores and online reporting growth. Seasonal lines targeted at Easter sold particularly well.
House textiles – up
Both like-for-like and total sales reported uplifts in house textiles, with bedding textiles selling particularly well. This result will be distorted by the early Easter and should reverse in April’s results.
Toys and baby equipment – up
This category ranked fourth in the growth rankings, driven by demand for outdoors toys and nursery items.
Household appliances – up
Like furniture and textiles, household appliances benefited from the early arrival of Easter. Ranking second for growth, the increase in total and like-for-like sales was driven by purchases of vacuum cleaners but offset by a drop in demand for small domestic appliances.
Jewellery and watches – up
Mother’s Day continued to drive consumer spend on jewellery and watches in March, following a positive uplift in sales the previous month for Valentine’s Day.
Other non-food – down
Electricals and electronics
Mobile phones continued to drive sales in the category but tablets and computers saw a drop in demand.
Leisure goods: gaming, books, CDs and DVDs
Sales of physical books rose for the 11th consecutive month, while demand for CDs and DVDs continued to decline.
DIY and gardening
Garden furniture sold well, but retailers considered sales to be below expectations overall.
Department stores – up
Benefiting from the stormy weather over Easter, department stores provided shelter for shoppers in March and increased their sales.