High street sales sluggish in April as consumers prefer spending in pubs

Helen Cahill
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Consumers have been spending more in pubs and restaurants (Source: Getty)

Despite high hopes for bumper Easter sales on the UK high street, new figures show that retailers failed to cash in on the Bank holiday weekend.

According to accountancy firm BDO, high street sales increased by just 1.9 per cent year-on-year in April, growth that was built on a "dismal" baseline; in April last year, high street sales dropped 6.1 per cent.

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Fashion and homeware sales were particularly stagnant, with clothing sales increasing by just 1.2 per cent and homeware sales falling by 3.1 per cent.

Consumers were still spending, however. Data from payments processor Worldpay shows that overall spending on cards grew by 1.5 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2017. This lift benefited pubs and restaurants, which had a spending increase of 6.4 per cent.

However, UK card spending on clothing and footwear fell 4.6 per cent, and spending in department stores and electronic retailers fell by one per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: "With Easter falling later, retailers would have been expecting a boost in sales in April, so these poor results will clearly be disappointing.

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"Retailers need to hold their nerve; focusing on product and range as well as innovative promotional activity to ignite spending, whilst preserving their profit margins."

According to research by independent retail analyst Richard Hyman, 54 per cent of non-retailers were on promotion last week. Over the past three months, the proportion of retailers on promotion has been varying between 50 per cent and 60 per cent, underscoring how difficult it has become for food retailers to sell their wares at full price.

New Look, for example, was on sale every week this year until 5 March, Hyman's analysis showed. He has forecast the proportion of retailers on promotion to rise to 70 per cent in summer.

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