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Record sunshine brightly boosts retail goods sales

By Roger Baird

The sunniest April since records began helped lift quarterly retail sales to their strongest level for almost a year, industry data has shown.

Like-for-like sales rose by 0.6% year-on-year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG, buoyed by an average of 212 hours of sunshine according to the Met Office.

These were the strongest quarterly same store sales since June, while total sales lifted 1.9%.

Same store monthly sales fell by 2.4% from a year ago when they were up 4.2%, but this data is heavily skewed due to the early timing of Easter this year that pulled sales forward into March.

The more representative three-month average found like-for-like non-food sales lifted 2.3% led by the fashion and beauty sector, which took advantage of the sunniest weather last month to sell spring and summer fashions.

This was in contrast to the autumn, where warm weather made it hard for these retailers to shift heavy coats and winter boots.

Total food sales rose by 0.4% over the quarter, ahead of their 0.6% decline across the last 12 months.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said food sales were "reasonably encouraging when we consider the structural changes and very competitive market in which grocery retailers find themselves operating".

KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale added: "The sunniest April since records began gave a boost to fashion sales, driving demand for spring/summer clothing and footwear and with consumers also taking advantage of Easter sales to bag a bargain."

Homeware was the worst performing sector, but Mr McCorquodale said this was to be expected due to the early Easter.

"Looking ahead, the birth of Princess Charlotte together with the promise of more warm weather on the horizon will boost consumers' feel-good factor and encourage spending as we head into the summer months," he said.

Mr McCorquodale added that retailers will expect the new Conservative Government to honour its election promises of not increasing Vat and reviewing business rates.

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