Easter and the royal wedding helped boost April’s retail sales by 5.2% on a like-for-like basis over those of a year earlier.
Overall, sales were up 6.9% on April 2010, and are good news for retailers after what British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson described as the “dire sales falls” seen this March.
However, while food sales enjoyed good growth and clothing, footwear, outdoor DIY and leisure benefited from the warm weather, indoor products suffered. Big-ticket items were hardest hit and often promotion led, amid continued consumer uncertainty about job and income prospects.
Home accessories and textiles sales both remained well below their year-earlier levels, struggling in the sunny weather as mindsets turned away from indoor products. Outdoor dining performed well but, elsewhere, cautious customers delayed discretionary purchases and concentrated on core essentials. Practical and replacement items often took priority over decorative extras, except where good discounts justified purchases.
However, non-food non-store sales – via the internet, mail order and phone – picked up in April, with sales 13.7% higher than a year ago.
“Easter and the royal wedding bank holiday provided a badly-needed boost to many retailers during April,” commented Stephen Robertson. “These sales figures are a relief after the dire sales falls we saw in March but they are not the full picture. The numbers are being compared with an April last year which was a time of uncertainty ahead of the General Election, and which didn’t include the main Easter trading period.
“Considered together, the results for March and April largely cancel each other out and the overall trend is flat. The underlying pressures on the retail sector of climbing costs and depressed consumer spending will be problems for many months to come.”