• Retailers’ like-for-like sales had sharpest drop year on year since February 2009
  • Fashion like-for-likes sales tumbled 9.2%
  • Homewares sales soared 17.8%

Retail sales plunged to the lowest level last month since the recession as fashion retailers continued to suffer, according to new figures. 

Bricks and mortar sales fell 6.1% in April compared to the same period last year, figures from the BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker revealed. It was the sharpest year-on-year decline since February 2009.

Lowered consumer confidence, sluggish footfall and unpredictable weather were all cited as factors that impacted April’s disappointing high street sales.

The BDO’s latest figures follow GfK reporting that consumer confidence hit a 15-month low in April owing to consumer uncertainty around Brexit.

Fashion retailers were worst-affected – like-for-likes sales slumped 9.2% year on year as heavy seasonal discounting failed to offset declining purchases.

Last month clothing retailers BHS and Austin Reed both entered into administration and fashion heavyweight Next reported a 0.2% dip in its first-quarter total sales on Wednesday.

BDO head of retail and wholesale Sophie Michael said: “With sluggish consumer spending and the cold recent months, retailers will undoubtedly be feeling that everything is against them.

“Retailers, however, need to be confident in their product offer, hold their nerve as the weather warms up, and be selective and strategic about promotions. Operating margins have already been squeezed this year through additional costs such as the national living wage and the adverse impact of a weak pound, and heavy discounting will only erode margin further.”

While fashion like-for-likes suffered their worst month since the recession, homewares sales continued to grow at pace, rising 17.8% in April.

Retailer’s online and catalogue sales also rose 16.4% as shoppers chose to buy online rather than in store.