May 9, 2017
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UK sales rise in April but shoppers want bargains and are cautious about fashion

May 9, 2017

Retail sales put on a spurt in April, which is good news right? Not necessarily. Despite a raft of contradictory statements about whether the late timing of Easter did or didn’t have an effect, the latest figures show that Easter was a major distorting factor and that April’s rise wasn’t a sign of a general trend towards higher sales.

Luxury shoppers may have thronged to London last month but UK consumers were generally seeking bargains

So what’s going on? For a start, comparable sales jumped 5.6% year-on-year last month.

But that didn’t mean shoppers bought enthusiastically into spring and early summer fashion ranges. Instead, consumers were reacting to uncertain economic times. Cards giant Barclaycard said they were focusing their spend on memorable experiences and going out for holidays like Easter, rather than buying more material goods.

And the BRC/KPMG monthly sales monitor showed sales were boosted by food and drink, but in this case it was grocery essentials rather than dining out. Also stronger were furniture, kidswear (possibly as families shopped for the new school term), and toys.

But the BRC said that the timing of Easter positively skewed the figures as Easter falling in March last year had meant that, April 2016 sales had been weaker.

With those comparable sales up 5.6% but the total value of sales being up 6.3%, it was clear that inflation was also having an affect as prices rose on the back of higher input costs following the pound’s fall.

"Looking to the longer-term signs of a slowdown, the outlook isn't as rosy," BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said, adding that consumers were bargain-focused with their grocery shopping and cautious about non-necessities like fashion.

Meanwhile Barclaycard backed up the BRC data saying sales rose 5.5% with two-thirds of people it surveyed focused on value for money and spending 16.6% more in discount stores.

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