The lousy weather has cast a cloud over the suncare market and prompted retailers and suppliers to ramp up promotional activity in a bid to heat up sales.

Shoppers are paying on average 5% less for sun tan and aftersun products than they did 12 months ago, with average volume prices down from £54.43 to £51.63 per litre/kg when comparing February to May 2013 with the same period in 2012 [].

During the same period, the average unit price in the suncare category has dropped by 8.5% from £8.59 to £7.86.

The volume price of branded products has fallen in line with the overall category, by about 5%, while the retailers’ own-label suncare lines have fallen by an average of 7.5%, from £23.81 to £22.06. Looking at aftersun products only, the drop has been slightly steeper, at 6% year-on-year.

Milk production down 10% and UK butter 65% more expensive year-on-year

Bad weather has delayed the start of the spring flush and hit UK milk production hard. Milk production in March was down 10% year-on-year, and the impact on dairy prices is plain to see. UK butter is now 65% more expensive than this time last year, having risen by a further 23.7% over the past month, with reduced butter exports from New Zealand and growing demand from China also driving up prices.

Milk powder prices are also up sharply year-on-year because of low production levels in the UK and New Zealand and - once again - firm demand from China. At £2,680/tonne, SMP is up 61.8% year-on-year, with WMP up by nearly 50% to £3,101/tonne.

Meanwhile, shell eggs for processing have fallen by nearly 5% over the past month because of low demand from Europe, and are now 43.2% cheaper than this time last year, when prices were exceptionally high in the wake of the EU battery cage ban.

Industry observers blame the falls on a number of factors, such as some retailers including a greater proportion of lower-priced lines in their sun protection ranges, and a decline in the number of people holidaying overseas.

But the British weather has played a big role, with last year’s poor summer resulting in high stock levels, and lousy weather this spring adding to the category’s woes.

“This time last year the sun was out, with grocers having secondary displays of products including more specialist sun creams,” said Will Butterworth, consultant at The Value Engineers. “This will have inflated the average price of last year’s range over the basic range currently available.”

One suncare supplier admitted the past few months had been “dreadful” and said retailers had upped the number of promotions in a bid to encourage consumers to buy.

It’s a view backed up by BrandView data, which shows a 24% hike in the number of promotions run on suncare products in the past six weeks compared with the same period a year ago.

And as the number of deals rose from 543 last year to 671 this year, the average saving has deepened from 40% to 42%.

But the lack of sunshine appears to have brought a healthy glow to the self-tan market, where the average volume price (per litre/kg) has risen from £62.69 to £65.10. These figures discount powder-based products and wipes, with the volume price of wipes as much as £300 per kg, while powders can break the £500 barrier.

Own-label lines account for a small part of the self-tan category, but some retailers have increased their ranges over the past year. New products including Sainsbury’s first own-label self-tan range, launched last summer, have pushed up the average own-label volume price from £18.57 in 2012 to £38.07 in February to May this year.