BRC says retail sales fell short of expectations in April

BRC UK retail sales

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has today announced that footfall and retail sales for the four weeks from 31 March – 27 April 2019 were “below expectation.”
The April figures were positively distorted by the later April timing of Easter, compared to March in 2018. To correct this distortion, the BRC has looked at the two-year average, since the Easter effect was reversed last year, depressing sales in April 2018 as a result.

In April just gone, UK retail sales increased by 3.7% on a like-for-like basis from April 2018, when they had decreased 4.2% from the preceding year. The two-year average growth, which corrects the Easter distortion, was 0.4% per annum, a slowdown from March’s equivalent of 0.9%. Not up to what was expected.

Over the three months to April 2019, in-store sales of non-food items declined 1.7% on a total basis, and 1.8% on a like-for-like basis. This is in line with the 12-month total average decline of 1.8%. Online, the three-month and 12-month average growths were 4.1% and 6.2% respectively.

Commenting on the figures, Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Retail sales were below expectation for April as the sunshine over the Easter weekend persuaded many to pursue recreational, rather than retail, activities. Department stores, as well as clothing and footwear shops, were harder hit by the warmer weather, while food-to-go fared much better from it. 

Online accounted for a little under 30% of all non-food sales, and we expect this proportion to continue to rise. Nonetheless, the pace of growth has slowed over the course of the year despite the investment that many stores have made in their digital offering.”

Paul Martin, partner and UK head of retail at KPMG, added: “Retailers reaped the rewards of Easter and more favourable weather in April, with like for like sale up 3.7% year-on-year. However, we must remain mindful of the distortion caused by Easter’s timing.”