Shoppers were spurred on by the sunny weather and bank holidays to spend on fashion in April with menswear and kidswear seeing strong growth, however comparisons were skewed by the later fall of Easter this year.
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, UK retail like-for-like sales values across all sectors grew by 5.2% in April compared to the same month a year ago when sales fell 2.3%. However last year only Easter Sunday and Monday fell in April compared to all of the Easter trading period being in April this year.
On a total basis sales were up 6.9% against a 0.2% decrease in April 2010.
Over the three months from February to April like-for-like non-food sales dropped 1.3%, with total non-food sales dropping by 0.2%.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “Easter and the Royal Wedding bank holiday provided a badly needed boost to many retailers during April… The hottest April since records began got people out spending on summer clothing and footwear.”
Robertson said the April sales figures did not reveal the full picture because the numbers were compared with an uncertain time last year ahead of the General Election and which did not include the main Easter trading period.
He added: “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. The Bank’s decision to maintain the freeze on interest rates was the right one and it’s important we see the economy performing much more strongly before there is any change in future.”
Sales growth picked up after a weak March and showed its largest gain since February 2010. Menswear and kidswear were strongest but were also both the weakest performing categories in March. Popular products included T-shirts, tops, lightweight knits, dresses, shorts, casual trousers and swimwear. Heavier knitwear, trousers and outerwear lagged.
Consumer uncertainty around jobs and income meant a persistent focus on buying essentials and buying items in promotions and Sale events.
Clothing was the best performing category during the month out of the total retail sector, with footwear at third place.
Warm weather, promotions and mid-season Sales helped footwear sales growth pick up with kid’s footwear showing the largest gain which was aided by school shoes and sandals.
Sandals also sold well for adults with men’s and women’s sales also well up on a year ago. Plain smarter styles which can be worn for work as well as leisure often sold better than casual styles.
The bank holidays and warm weather did not help department stores as expected, with April proving to be a slower month for most in the sector. Weak consumer confidence also remained a problem.
Mid-season Sales and promotions attracted some shoppers with spring clothing and footwear experiencing a lift for some stores.
Internet and Mail Order
Non-food non-store sales growth picked up with sales 13.7% higher than a year ago after a small gain of 7.5% in March. Easter and the warm weather benefitted sales in clothing and footwear.