Belfast Telegraph

Cold weather stifles April's retail sales in 'dire month'

Retail sales remained stagnant for the second month in a row as colder weather hit the launch of spring fashion ranges, according to a report.

The latest British Retail Consortium-KPMG survey showed total retail spending was flat in April, admittedly compared to a fall of 1.3% a year ago, while like-for-like sales slipped 0.9% last month.

It said retail sales were knocked by a "dire month" from fashion outlets as unseasonable weather dampened shoppers' interest in the launch of spring and summer clothing ranges.

The survey had previously reported that total retail sales were also unmoved in March.

A range of economic data have recently showed retail sales beginning to slow after having been a key driver of the UK economy. Consumer spending has played a crucial part in offsetting weaker export sales and manufacturing growth.

Last month the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product grew by 0.4% in the first three months of 2016, down from 0.6% in the fourth quarter of last year, following a poor performance from the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Last week Next warned that full-year profits could take a hit after sales for the first quarter fell 0.9 per cent as cold weather dampened demand for its clothing.

The British Retail Consortium-KPMG report said clothing stores posted a their worst declines since September 2014.

Home accessories sales were the top performer last month, benefiting from a housing market that has been buoyed by the Government's Help to Buy scheme.

Over the three months to April total food revenue slipped 0.2% compared to a year ago, while like-for-like sales fell 1.7% over the same period, as supermarket price wars continue to grip the industry.

David McCorquodale, UK head of retail at accountants KPMG, said "consumers still appear to be hooked on a diet of discounts, deflationary trends in the sector look set to continue".

Mr McCorquodale added: "Overall, retail sales slowed during April with temperatures well below the average for the time of year."

Meanwhile, credit card firm Barclaycard said consumer spending slowed for the second consecutive month in April, rising by 1.9%, well below the 12-month average of 3.7%.

Shoppers were cutting back on essentials in a bid to keep up spending on luxuries such as air travel and restaurants, the report said.

As a result it said supermarket spending last month fell by 6.1%, its worst performance since Barclaycard began keeping records in 2011.

Barclaycard managing director Paul Lockstone said: "April proved another challenging month for retail as consumers held back in the face of economic headwinds.

"The feel-good factor they enjoyed in 2015, encouraged by rising employment and increasing household incomes, has been hit by a combination of uncertainty on everything from oil prices to the EU referendum."