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UK retail sales slump after April showers dampen spending

24 May 2024 3 minute read
Photo by Pexels from Pixabay

Retail spending slumped by more than expected last month as shoppers were deterred by rainy weather, according to new official figures.

The amount of items bought across the UK fell by 2.3% in April, following a fall of 0.2% in March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

March’s data has been revised down from a previous estimate of 0.0%.

Some economists had been expecting a softer decline of 0.6% for the month.

The volume of sales fell across most sectors, with clothing retailers, sports equipment, games and toys stores, and furniture stores particularly dampened by poor weather reducing shopping trips.

Heavy rainfall

The UK experienced storms and heavy rainfall during April, with several flood warnings issued across the country.

Across non-food shops, which the ONS says includes clothing and household stores, sales volumes tumbled by 4.1% in April.

This was the joint steepest fall since January 2021.

Fashion and footwear retailers alone saw sales dip by 5.1% month on month, as retailers struggled to drive demand for spring and summer collections.

Online retailers

Department stores and online retailers were among the few industries to see sales improve last month.

The value of sales also dropped sharply, according to the latest data, meaning price rises and more expensive purchases were not enough to boost the amount of cash retailers generated.

Rob Wood, chief UK economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the past three months have seen “relentlessly bad weather, with rainfall 55% above average in February, 20% in March and 68% in April”.

But he said hopes of rainfall returning to more seasonal norms should mean the high street sees “less disruption”, and that wage growth and falling inflation should boost consumer spending.

“With households already saving a larger fraction of their incomes than usual and reporting in ONS surveys that they have rebuilt their rainy day savings, we expect further increases in disposable income to feed through strongly to overall spending,” he said.

Disappointing

Oliver Vernon-Harcourt, head of retail at Deloitte, said: “April’s retail sales were more disappointing than expected, once again being dampened by wet weather, deterring shoppers from the high street and impacting the sale of seasonal items.

“Though consumer confidence continues to rise, many remain apprehensive and are not yet loosening their purse strings, especially on non-essential items and goods such as clothing and footwear.

“Consumers are focused on value, with the likes of own-label food remaining resilient.

“Overall, this is a clear sign that, despite inflation easing, retailers’ road to recovery will require them to continue to invest into product ranges that target consumers of all budgets.”


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