Retail sales show surprise increase in April as Brits stocked up on clothes for post-Covid holidays… but signs of cost-of-living squeeze with booze purchases for cheaper nights in
Retail sales recorded a surprise increase in April as Brits stocked up on clothes for post-Covid holidays, it was revealed today.
Official figures confounded the expectations of analysts for a fall with volumes rising 1.4 per cent, while the previous drop in March was revised down slightly to 1.2 per cent.
Shops reported that some consumers were purchasing outfits for jaunts abroad and weddings.
However, there were grimmer long-term signs as inflation soars and the economy slows down. Much of the bounce was due to supermarket sales and off-licences – suggesting people were buying food and drink for cheaper nights in rather than going out to bars and restaurants.
ONS deputy director for surveys and economic indicators Heather Bovill said: ‘Retail sales picked up in April after last month’s fall. However, these figures still show a continued longer-term downward trend.
Official figures confounded the expectations of analysts for a fall with volumes rising 1.4 per cent, while the previous drop in March was revised down slightly to 1.2 per cent
‘April’s rise was driven by an increase in supermarket sales, led by alcohol and tobacco and sweet treats, with off-licences also reporting a boost, possibly due to people staying in more to save money.
‘Clothing sales had a strong month, especially online, with some retailers suggesting consumers were purchasing clothes for summer holidays and weddings.’
The April rise was in part driven by an increase in the amount that people bought from food stores, which rose by 2.8 per cent.
Supermarkets did bigger trade in alcohol and tobacco, while sales of actual food remained largely unchanged.
Sales for non-food shops dropped by 0.6 per cent in April, the ONS said. Officials also changed initial estimates of a 1.4 per cent drop in March to 1.2 per cent.
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: ‘Retail sales are being squeezed by a combination of low demand, high inflation and rising costs.
‘The fall in demand comes as consumers reign in their discretionary spending following a significant reduction to real incomes for households across the UK.
‘Meanwhile, retailers face higher food and commodity prices, increased shipping and transport costs, and the tightest labour market in decades.
‘Retailers are working hard to support their customers by keeping costs down where they can, and expanding affordable ranges, however it is impossible to mitigate all the costs coming through their supply chains.
‘Until inflation is brought to heel, and consumer confidence returns, retailers could be in for some difficult times ahead, with lower demand and reduced margins.’