UK retail sales continue decline in April

In April, UK retail sales decreased by 4.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis when compared with April 2017, when sales were up 5.6 per cent from the preceding year.

This is according to the latest BRC-KMPG retail sales index, which found that sales declined 3.1 per cent in April on a total basis, against an increase of 6.3 per cent in April 2017, both distorted by the timing of Easter. This is below the three month and 12 month averages of 0.4 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively and the sharpest decline recorded by the monitor its inception in January 1995.

Over the three months to April, in-store sales of non-food items dropped 3.8 per cent on a total basis – a record low since this measure began in January 2013. This is below the 12 month total average growth of 3.5 per cent, suggesting growth has peaked since inflation started to recede.

Online sales of non-food products grew 6.7 per cent in April, against a growth of 10.3 per cent in April 2017. This is below the three month and 12 month averages of 7.1 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. The online penetration rate increased from 20.8 per cent in April 2017 to 22.0 per cent in April 2018.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said that a drop in sales was inevitable given the timing of Easter. “With much of the spending in preparation for the Bank Holiday weekend falling in March this year, a record low in sales growth, in contrast to last year’s record high, does not come as a surprise. However, even once we take account of these seasonal distortions, the underlying trend in sales growth is heading downwards.

“The retail industry is undergoing an unprecedented period of change the impact of which is being laid bare for us all to see across the nation's High Streets,” stated Dickinson. “Retailers are reacting to this change to ensure it represents a positive reinvention of our industry, investing in technology and innovation and providing digital training to employees to improve the customer experience.”

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