Published on 11 - May - 2010
Latest BRC figures show sales drop in AprilUK retail sales values fell 2.3% last month compared with 2009, with housewares below year-earlier levels but DIY showing strong signs.
In stark contrast to yesterday's figures from the BDO High Street Sales Tracker, which revealed an overall sales increase of 1.7% in April, the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) Retail Sales Monitor reported a 2.3% decline in sales values against a 4.6% uplift in April 2009.
Non-food sales grew 2.1% but were reportedly affected by an early Easter and pre-election uncertainty consumer caution, which favoured essentials and replacements over discretionary items.
According to the BRC, homewares fell back below year-earlier levels, despite some further discounts and promotions. House textiles also showed a year-on-year fall, while practical kitchen and cooking products took priority over decorative extras, except where good discounts justified purchases.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson commented: "April's sales were down on a year ago but that's because f the Easter effect. This April's trading period only included the last two days of Easter, while last year's had the entire build up and holiday weekend."
He added: "Both food and non-food sales growth slipped back this April because people had already done their Easter spending in the previous month. The three-month average irons out the Easter distortions. It shows total sales up 3.8% this year compared with 2.2% in the same three months in 2009."
Something that both BDO and the BRC's findings agreed on was that warmer weather in April resulted in a strong month for DIY. BDO reported yesterday that DIY activity continued to be popular in April, helping homewares post a 4.7% like-for-like sales increase for the month.
The BRC agreed that improved weather helped outdoor DIY and gardening, while Easter promotions also attracted shoppers, with plants and cut flowers doing well. The increased popularity of grow your own boosted vegetable seeds, supplies and propagation equipment, while indoor décor was said to be mixed, with consumer caution and uncertainty affecting home improvement.
In the furniture and floorcoverings sector, sales dropped back to show their worst year-on-year fall since March 2009, despite further discounts. Trade was mixed, with Easter promotions supporting fitted kitchens and bathrooms and new or modern furniture showing gains for some, but remaining difficult for many. Garden furniture showed modest gains on sunny weekends during the month.
Mr Robertson concluded: "There's no question customers are more willing to spend than 12 months ago but still nervous. People need to know how a new Government's moves to tackle the deficit will affect their incomes and jobs. Even is the measures are tough, knowing what they are could be better than the current uncertainty."
KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson commented: "The general malaise of the consumer is evident and looks likely to remain, for a while at least. She added: "Food and anything home related were hit hard by the distorting effects of Easter. Retailers are working hard to manage their costs and stay competitive while demand remains so volatile."
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