- UK retail sales values were down 2.2% on a like-for-like basis from April 2012, when they had declined 3.3% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were down 0.6%, against a 1.0% decline in April 2012.
- Growth was negatively impacted by the timing of Easter, which fell in April last year but in March this year. The 3-month total growth average, which irons out the Easter distortions, was 2.6%. It remained above the long-term 12-month average, which continued on an uptrend to reach 2.5%.
- Adjusted for Shop Price Index inflation at 0.4% in April, total retail sales declined 1.0% in real terms while the 3-month average showed growth of 1.6%.
- Online sales were up 8.3% compared with April 2012, when they had risen by 9.0%.
Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: "On the surface these are really poor figures but they’re hiding another respectable month. The fact that the boost from Easter didn’t fall in April this year hit food sales in particular. But, taking away the Easter distortion, this was actually a better month than March, especially for non-food sales.
"Wintry weather, followed by the arrival of sun, had a big influence on some retailers. Fashion sales were weak early in the month but that was almost entirely made up later when signs of spring arrived. While health and beauty gained both ways with strong sales of cold and flu remedies and then of bronzing and skin care products.
"There’s a sense that people are more prepared to spend than they were but Chief Executives are telling me that’s volatile. A convincing trend towards revival is hard to spot and competitive pricing is still critical to generating sales, despite the effect on margins and on retailers’ ability to invest in offering customers new ways to shop.
"Essentially, so far this year, sales growth is a small and tentative step up on where it was in 2012 but when it will take the next step is not clear."
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said "This was always going to be a tricky month. As predicted, April’s sales have been negatively affected by Easter falling in March this year and so statistically the figures, with like-for-like sales down 2.2 per cent, look depressing when compared with last year’s rain soaked April.
"However, taking the three month weighted average, which smooths out the effect of the timing of Easter, the total increase in retail sales was 2.6 per cent. That’s above the three-month Shop Price Index at 1.0 per cent. This is a positive result and shows that, despite the cold weather of the last few months, the health of the retail sector is holding up and may be on a positive trajectory. It is yet to be seen at what margins these sales are being achieved and what is the cost of fulfilling the online demand, but retailers will be heartened by this momentum.
"Home accessories and household textile sales tapered off in April after a strong showing in March and, whilst footwear and fashion sales continued to struggle early in the month with winter’s bite continuing, the arrival of spring delivered some light relief for the fashion sector. We hope for more good weather and good news over May and June as retailers, particularly in garden and fashion, will look for a strong performance after last year’s early summer deluge."
Food & Drink sector performance – Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive, IGD, said: "Spending on food and groceries was more restrained in April as a whole – partly due to Easter falling in March, and the arctic spring at the start of the month.
"Better weather in the last week of April provided a small boost and food companies will hope this improvement is sustained with shoppers taking full advantage of the two May bank holidays.
"Shoppers’ attitudes have also been changing. Our ShopperVista research shows 49 per cent say ‘how food is produced’ is important to them when making product choices, compared with 43 per cent last year. Shoppers are investing more time and effort to ensure quality."
The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor measures changes in the actual value (including VAT) of retail sales, excluding automotive fuel. The Monitor measures the value of spending and hence does not adjust for price or VAT changes. If prices are rising, sales volumes will increase by less than sales values. In times of price deflation, sales volumes will increase by more than sales values.
Retailers report the value of their sales for the current period and the equivalent period a year ago. These figures are reported both in total and on a ‘like-for-like’ basis.
Total sales growth is the percentage change in the value of all sales compared to the same period a year earlier. The total sales measure is used to assess market level trends in retail sales. It is a guide to the growth of the whole retail industry, or how much consumers in total are spending in retail – retail spending represents approximately one-third of consumer spending. It is this measure that is often used by economists. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of total sales.
'Like-for-like' sales growth (LFL) is the percentage change in the value of comparable sales compared to the same period a year earlier. It excludes any spending in stores that opened or closed in the intervening year, thus stripping out the effect on sales of changes in floorspace. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of like-for-like comparable sales.
The like-for-like measure is often used by retailers, the city and analysts to assess the performance of individual companies, retail sectors and the industry overall, without the distorting effect of changes in floorspace.
Online (including mail order and phone) sales of non-food are transactions which take place over the internet, or via mail order or phone. Online sales growth is the percentage change in the value of online sales compared to those in the same period a year earlier. It is a guide to the growth of sales made by this non-store channel. It should be noted that online sales are still a small proportion of total UK retail sales. Estimates based on ONS figures show about 9 per cent of total UK retail sales (food and non-food) are achieved via the non-store channel.
The responses provided by retailers within each sales category are weighted (based on ONS weightings) to reflect the contribution of each category to total retail sales, thus making it representative of UK retail sales as a whole. Because the figures compare sales this month with the comparable period last year, a seasonal adjustment is not made. However, changes in the timing of Bank Holidays and Easter can create distortions, which should be considered in the interpretation of the data.
As well as receiving sales value direct from the retailers in the scheme the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor also receives food and drink sales value data from the IGD's Market Track Scheme.
In its role as sponsor of the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, KPMG is responsible for the aggregation of the retail sales data provided by the retailers on a weekly basis. This data consists of the relevant current week’s sales data and comparative sales figures for the same period in the prior year. The aggregation has been performed by KPMG on data for periods following 2 April 2000 and equivalent prior periods. The accuracy of the data is entirely the responsibility of the retailers providing it. The sponsorship role has been performed by KPMG since 10 April 2000 and the same for the aggregation of comparative sales figures for the period from 2 April 2000 it is not responsible for the aggregation of any data included in this Monitor relating to any period prior to 2 April 2000. The commentary from KPMG is intended to be of general interest to readers but is not advice or a recommendation and should not be relied upon without first taking professional advice. Anyone choosing to rely on it does so at his or her own risk. To the fullest extent permitted by law, KPMG will accept no responsibility or liability in connection with its sponsorship of the Monitor and its aggregation work to any party other than the BRC.
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The May 2013 Monitor, covering the four weeks 28 April – 25 May, will be released at 00.01am Tuesday 4 June 2013.
The data is collected and collated for the BRC by KPMG.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the UK's leading retail trade association. It represents the full range of retailers, large and small, multiples and independents, food and non-food, online and store based.
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