An unusually cold start to spring stopped British consumers from splashing out on warm weather clothes and shoes in April, causing the country’s stores to experience record declines.
According to the latest BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor, released Tuesday, like-for-likes dropped 0.9% last month, compared with the same period a year ago, as growth in the grocery sector was offset by soft sales in fashion.
April’s poor performance followed a 3 percent fall in March, as cautious shoppers refused to be swayed by deep discounts.
“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,” David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), continued, “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%.”
The retail sales report was published on the heels of last week’s BRC-Nielsen shop price index, which found that footwear and apparel prices fell by 7.1% year-over-year in April, marking the third straight year of deflation.
“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,” Dickinson continued, noting, “Overall, flat total sales mask a very mixed picture; some retailers 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 McCorquodale declared consumers to be “hooked on a diet of discounts,” he predicted a pickup in fashion and footwear sales.
“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,” he said.
With that being said, shop prices are expected to keep falling for the rest of the year.
Dickinson concluded, “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.”