Total UK retail sales were flat in April – but home was the best performing sector, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.
The BRC-KPMG monthly retail sales monitor covers the four weeks to April 30.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “April saw the second month of flat sales for UK retailers, with positive food sales offset by record declines in fashion. As a result, the 12-month average growth for non-food sales slowed to 2.5%, while for food sales, it nudged back into positive territory at 0.1%.
“Some retailers will take comfort in the fact that sales in the home categories continued to grow; once again ranked as the best performing sector. This is on the back of a continuing rise in the number of home owners enjoying record low interest rates.
“Overall, flat total sales mask a very mixed picture. Some retailers are benefiting from the healthy housing market, while others are evidently more susceptible to the effects of lower consumer confidence and a higher proportion of disposable income going into leisure and entertainment.
“While glimmers of hope are evident, the rapid pace of change in the industry, increasing cost pressures and other businesses burdens remain a cause for concern.”
KPMG head of Retail David McCorquodale commented: “Overall, retail sales slowed during April, with temperatures well below the average for the time of year.
“Looking at the three months to April, non-food like-for-like growth was particularly weak, especially for fashion and footwear, as the cooler weather dampened the launch of spring/summer ranges.
“On the brighter side, furniture and home accessories continued to fare well as retailers reaped the benefits of well-timed promotions. And there was also some mild relief for the grocers with total food and drink sales inching up slightly versus April 2015. However, as consumers still appear to be hooked on a diet of discounts, deflationary trends in the sector look set to continue.
“With warm spring-like conditions now prevailing, fashion retailers will be hoping this will motivate the summer wardrobe refresh, and the grocers will be looking forward to a summer of sporting events in the hopes the feel good factor will encourage consumer spending.”
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson