April retail sales fall due to weather and earlier Easter
Retail like-for-like sales in the UK fell 2.2% in April compared to a drop of 3.3% in the same month last year as this years earlier Easter affected sales growth.
Figures released by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG show that total sales were down 0.6%, against a 1% decline in April 2012. Growth was negatively impacted by the earlier timing of Easter which fell in March this year. The three-month average, which irons out the distorting effect of Easter, shows growth was 2.6%.
Online sales were up 8.3% compared with April 2012, when they had risen by 9%.
The BRC said that while on the surface the figures were "really poor", they were hiding a respectable month when the Easter distortion was removed.
Helen Dickinson, BRC director general, said: "The fact that the boost from Easter didn't fall in April this year hit food sales in particular. But, taking away the Easter distortion, this was actually a better month than March, especially for non-food sales.
"There's a sense that people are more prepared to spend than they were but Chief Executives are telling me that's volatile. A convincing trend towards revival is hard to spot and competitive pricing is still critical to generating sales, despite the effect on margins and on retailers' ability to invest in offering customers new ways to shop.
"Essentially, so far this year, sales growth is a small and tentative step up on where it was in 2012 but when it will take the next step is not clear."
Fashion sales were weak early in the month but sales improved later in the month with the arrival of warmer weather. Sales of health and beauty products benefited from both the cool and warmer weather with strong sales of cold and flu remedies and then of bronzing and skin care products.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: "Taking the three month weighted average, which smooths out the effect of the timing of Easter, the total increase in retail sales was 2.6%. That's above the three-month Shop Price Index at 1%. This is a positive result and shows that, despite the cold weather of the last few months, the health of the retail sector is holding up and may be on a positive trajectory.
"It is yet to be seen at what margins these sales are being achieved and what is the cost of fulfilling the online demand, but retailers will be heartened by this momentum."
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