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UK retail sales fell back in April signifying a ‘depressing start to Spring” as wet weather suppressed activity.

Retail sales were down 4% in the four weeks to 27 April, according to the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor for April

This was a marked reversal of the 5.1% growth seen in April 2023 and below both the 3-month average growth of 0.5% and the 12-month average growth of 2.2%.

When correcting for the distortion created by the earlier timing of Easter, the average growth for March and April together was 0.2%.

Food sales increased 4.4% year on year over the three months to April, against a growth of 9.8% in April 2023.

However, non-food sales decreased 2.8% year on year over the three-months to April, against a growth of 1.2% in April 2023.

In-store Non-Food sales over the three months to April decreased 2.4% year on year, against a growth of 3.9% in April 2023, while online Non-Food sales decreased by 5.5% year on year in April, against a decline of 3.6% in April 2023.

The online penetration rate increased to 36.2% in April from 36.1% in April 2023.

British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson commented: “Dismal weather and disappointing sales led to a depressing start to Spring for retailers, even accounting for the change in timing of Easter. People delayed typical Spring purchases despite retailers’ attempts to entice customers with heavy discounts. A dull, wet April dampened sales growth for clothing and footwear, especially outdoor sportswear, as well as DIY and garden furniture.

“Promotions in computing did boost sales as many sought to upgrade their tech a few years post the pandemic surge in tech sales. Many retailers are hoping for brighter sales over the summer months as social events ramp up, and consumer confidence could improve with a potential cut in interest rates.

“A strong retail industry is vital for a strong economy, and it is vital the next Government recognises this if it wants to boost investment in our towns and cities. Retail is nearly 10% of employment in every region and plays a unique role in building communities and generating local economic growth. The Government must champion pro-growth policies to help unlock important investment in many left-behind regions.”

Linda Ellett, UK head of consumer, retail & leisure, KPMG, added: “The positive sales growth seen in March was short lived as the impact of an early Easter and continued wet and chilly weather saw April retail sales fall by 4% year on year.

“Health, beauty and personal care sales remained resilient categories and there was a surprised return to positive sales growth for computing for the first time in over two years, both instore and online. The food category is always buoyed by Easter, but looking at the three month figures food and drink shows positive sales growth, albeit dampened volumes. Online and high street sales across categories that can be delayed, including clothing and footwear, remain subdued as no one is rushing out yet for summer clothing.

“On paper consumers should arguably be feeling more able to go out spending again as economic conditions improve, but on the back of two years of budgeting and cost cutting, cautious consumers are releasing the purse-strings much more slowly than they tightened them, choosing to save or pay down debt.

“The positive sales figures seen in March due to an early Easter demonstrate the importance that triggers such as warmer weather, events and occasions can have in helping to deliver the necessary impact required to get consumers spending again. Retailers will be hoping that there might still be an early summer interest rate cut, a strong performance from England and Scotland in the Euros, and an uptick in temperatures. Together this might be the trigger to boost consumers’ willingness to spend in the weeks ahead.”

IG CEO Sarah Bradbury said on food and drink sector performance: ““With Easter falling in March this year, the UK grocery market was always going to face a tough set of annual comparisons in April. Sales and volumes have predictably both turned negative compared to the same period last year. But there is hope - with inflation continuing to exit the market, increased promotional activity among retailers, and two upcoming bank holidays in which sales and volumes will surely improve.

“As expected, confidence in the year ahead continues to grow steadily. Shopper confidence at a total level increased slightly in April as inflation continued to ease off slowly. However, as National Price Hike Day and the 2p cut to national insurance have both come into effect, we continue to anticipate a divergent experience in recovery for shoppers.”

Morning update

Troubled Revolution Bars has said it has received 42 expressions of interest after its decision to sell part or all of the group.

Some 32 of those have signed an NDA. However, this does not include Nightcap PLC, which has gone public with the announcement it is exploring all options with regards to the purchase of certain assets, subsidiaries or brands of the group or all of the issued and to be issued shares of the company.

A Revolution statement said: “The board welcomes the interest of all parties in the Group and its businesses and is open to exploring all options that may deliver a superior outcome to the restructuring plan.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has started the week on the front foot, up 0.9% so far this morning to 8,282.9pts.

Risers include Ocado, up 4.8% to 372.7p, Domino’s Pizza Group, up 3% to 323.2p and Marks & Spencer, up 2.4% to 264.6p.

Fallers include Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, down 2.7% to 66.2p, Kerry Group, down 2.5% to €80.60 and Haleon, down 0.6% to 328.1p.

This week in the City

It looks to be a quiet week in store following the bank holiday, with no UK market news scheduled.

Haleon’s AGM is tomorrow, while the latest Bank of England MPC interest rate decision comes on Thursday.

There is more activity internationally, with quarterly updates from AB InBev, Henkel, Hain Celestial, Beyond Meat and Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize all scheduled for tomorrow.