Covering the four weeks 1 - 28 April 2018

  • In April, UK retail sales decreased by 4.2% on a like-for-like basis from April 2017, when they had increased 5.6% from the preceding year.
  • On a total basis, sales declined 3.1% in April, against an increase of 6.3% in April 2017, both distorted by the timing of Easter. This is below the 3-month and 12-month averages of 0.4% and 1.2% respectively and the sharpest decline recorded by our monitor since its inception in January 1995.
  • Over the three months to April, In-store sales of Non-Food items declined 3.8% on a Total basis and 4.9% on a Like-for-like basis. This sets a record low since this measure began in January 2013. On a 12-month basis, the Total decline was 2.9%, another record low.
  • Over the three months to April, Food sales increased 1.7% on a like-for-like basis and 3.0% on a total basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 3.5%, suggesting growth has peaked, since inflation started to recede.
  • Over the three-months to April, Non-Food retail sales in the UK decreased 2.4% on a like-for-like basis and 1.6% on a Total basis, the lowest since March 2009. This is below the 12-month Total average decrease of 0.6%, itself the lowest since September 2009.
  • Online sales of Non-Food products grew 6.7% in April, against a growth of 10.3% in April 2017. This is below the 3-month and 12-month averages of 7.1% and 7.5% respectively. Online penetration rate increased from 20.8% in April 2017 to 22.0% in April 2018.


Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium

“A drop in sales this April, compared to last, was almost inevitable given the earlier timing of Easter. With much of the spending in preparation for the Bank Holiday weekend falling in March this year, a record low in sales growth, in contrast to last year’s record high, does not come as a surprise. However, even once we take account of these seasonal distortions, the underlying trend in sales growth is heading downwards.

“The first glimpse of summer may have temporarily lifted clothing and footwear, but non-food sales overall continue to be weak. Consumers’ discretionary spending power remains under pressure and the reality is, that with only a gradual return to solid growth in real incomes expected, the market environment is likely to remain extremely challenging for most retailers.

“The retail industry is undergoing an unprecedented period of change the impact of which is being laid bare for us all to see across the nation's high streets. Retailers are reacting to this change to ensure it represents a positive reinvention of our industry, investing in technology and innovation and providing digital training to employees to improve the customer experience."

Paul Martin, Head of Retail, KPMG

“April’s figures show retail sales growth falling off a cliff, with sales down -3.1 per cent on last year, but we must exercise caution and remember that the timing of Easter makes meaningful month-on-month comparisons difficult. That said, the three-month average is more helpful to assess, but this too points to sales only growing modestly – these are indeed testing times for retailers!

“April saw all seasons rolled into one, from a dreary and wet Easter to more welcome sunny spells. Fashion sales received a much-needed boost, but otherwise the sales were disappointing for the rest of the high street.

“Online retail once again bucked the overall trend, with growth in all categories except toys and baby equipment. Like the high street, it was clothing and footwear that benefitted most.

“Retailers have got their work cut out to overcome seemingly endless obstacles, whether it be unpredictable weather or the introduction of new regulation, like GDPR. The upcoming months will provide a number of opportunities for retailers to drive sales and navigate this assault course, including Bank holidays, World Cup and of course the Royal wedding, although it is clear that trading will remain challenging.”

Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive, IGD

“Although food and grocery sales took a dip in April, this is fully explained by the fluctuating date of Easter. Combining the last two months to remove this effect, reveals a slight increase on last year of just over two per cent.

“This was another solid result for the sector, especially given the drop in food inflation. Retailers will hope for a buoyant May, boosted by the royal wedding and presumably, some sunnier weather. However, shopper sentiment is finely balanced with 17 per cent intending to concentrate on making savings from their groceries versus 15 per cent intending to focus more on quality.”