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Wet weather blamed for April retail dip

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Retail sales volumes fell by 2.3% in April 2024 with most sectors hit by poor weather reducing footfall, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Clothing retailers, sports equipment, games and toys stores, as well as furniture stores were all impacted by the wet April. Additionally, the amount spent online also fell by 1.2% during April 2024, and by 1.5% over the year.

This follows two consecutive months of ‘flat sales’ in both February and March.

Jacqui Baker, head of retail at RSM UK and chair of ICAEW’s Retail Group, responded: “The tough start to the year dragged on for retailers in April, with homeware and clothing hit the hardest. The cold and wet weather put shoppers off from heading to the high street, leading to some consumers shopping online instead, with an uptick of 1.1%.

“Although workers will have benefitted from a National Insurance cut in April, as well as an increase in minimum wage for some, it’s likely we won’t start to see the benefits until May onwards. Plus, with inflation easing, interest rate cuts on the horizon and the sunshine making an appearance, things should start to look up soon as consumer confidence builds.

“Some retailers have been able to weather the storm better than others. Marks and Spencer for example, showed strong growth in food, clothing and home sales in its latest results. Its success story shows it’s possible to turn things around, when going back to the basics and focusing on core values.

“However, many retailers are struggling, and as election fever grips the nation consumer confidence could be hit in the short term. Whatever the outcome on 4 July, retailers need root-and-branch reform of business rates, plus a U-turn on tax-free shopping, to be high up on the next government’s to-do list to alleviate key headwinds impacting the industry now.”

Asif Aziz, EE’s retail director, commented: “Although retail sales slowed in April due to the wet weather and an earlier than usual Easter, a combination of discounts and easing inflation have led to a boost in sales of technology, showing that shoppers will spend if the incentives are right.

“The challenge now is for retailers to grab shoppers’ attention through a busy summer with other incentives that go above and beyond traditional bricks-and-mortar concepts.”

Josh Graham, co-founder of Airtime Rewards, added:“This morning’s drop in retail sales figures will be disheartening for retailers as they prepare for the second May Bank holiday weekend. In the month of April, our data showed that vacations saw the biggest drop in spending with average transaction values dropping 17% March to April.   

“However, our recent open banking data highlighted that bars and restaurants can expect to see sales of up to 41% higher on Bank holiday Mondays, compared to a regular Monday. Following a continued downturn in inflation, the dial is moving in the right direction for consumers to feel like they have more purchasing power. Retailers must now continue to put their best efforts into attracting and retaining their customer base.”

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