Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, BRC:
“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.”
Food & Drink sector performance, 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.”