UK retail sales sprang back in April when they rose 4.2% on a like-for-like basis boosted by Easter, according to the BRC KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
A three-month average indicated that food fell by 2% like-for-like. However month-on-month it was it was up for the first time since July 2013. Contrary to March, there was a positive distorting effect on food in April because of the timong of Easter this year - last year it fell in March. Adjusted for food inflation, the three-month average change for food was -0.7% in April against -0.3% on a 12-month average.
The performance is testament to a tough environment for food retailers, where customers continue to spend cautiously and as grocers’ continue to slash prices to attract customers but take a hit on margins. The warmer weather meant that there was less demand for hearty meals than last year and that British seasonal produce like berries were available early. Celebration goods and chocolate drove growth becuse of Easter.
Clothing and footwear have performed well over the spring months, benefiting from milder weather compared to last year. As one more week of the school Easter break fell in April this year, it was a particularly strong month for children’s clothing which achieved double-digit growth.
Women’s clothing o registered a slight decline, despite some retailers putting in a strong performance across accessories and swimwear. There was a shift from dresses towards separates and kimonos, with less stock in clearance as a result of a robust March. Men’s fashion continued on the positive trend recorded in the past few months, with good demand for jerseys and essentials.
Like clothing, footwear was driven by children’s goods’ sales in April, and school shoes performed particularly well. Sandals continued to outperform, together with on-trend canvas, and there was strong demand for men’s sport and casual shoes.
Health and beauty ↓
Health and beauty posted a decline in April. Easter is not traditionally a strong time for the sector. Baby formula faced tough comparatives, because talk of a supply shortage last year made shoppers stockpile. Fragrance did well and core health was buoyed by allergy products.
Furniture and flooring ↑
Furniture and flooring reported its strongest growth since April 2006, when there also was positive distortion from Easter. Retailers confirmed a pick-up in demand for big ticket items, including new flooring. But there was a mixed bag in terms of results - some retailers successfully attracted shoppers while others expressed disappointment.
Home accessories ↓
Home accessories was the worst performing category in April, overshadowed by the success of furniture. Home textiles was the only strong performer in this category, benefitting from the momentum in furniture. Bed linen sold well.
Other non-food ↑
Garden furniture was also a top performer in April, positively distorted by the timing of Easter. It was also a successful Easter for gardening, with strong demand for lawn mowers and home improvement products on the back of the pick-up in the housing market.
There was explosive demand for outdoor toys as a result of the combined effect of the Easter break and warmer weather compared to last year.
In electricals, televisions saw an increase in demand ahead of the World Cup and video games and consoles continued their good run, taking over from tablets last year. Successful DVD launches, such as Frozen and The Hobbit boosted leisure goods alongside children’s and educational books.
Online sales of non-food products rose 11.2% in April year on year, the lowest recorded growth to date. The slowdown is an expected effect of the Easter break as people went shopping for home and family goods. Growth wast still not far below the 12-month average of 12.7%.
Fashion categories came bottom of the growth table and recorded their lowest contribution since the Monitor began in December 2012. Furniture in contrast recorded its best contribution, while other non-food represented almost 80% of the growth.
According to a new report by Qubit, the average value of each online order in London is £268 compared to just over £100 for internet shoppers around the rest of the country, while the conversion rate is lower, at 2.0% in London compared to 2.3% elsewhere.