Strong April sales boost for retailers

Retail sales rose in April according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as the sun shone and Easter footfall was robust on the high street, with a 7% year-on-year rise in sales values and 1.9% rise on the previous month following a short blip in March where sales contracted.


In recent months average store prices have increased at a strong rate that has not been seen since 2010. In April 2017 compared with April 2016, the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) increased across all main retail sectors, and over the last 12 months, all retailer types have seen growth with the exception of department stores.

Department stores have seen a decrease in the quantity bought whilst the amount spent increased, which coincides with price increases in the sector. Overall, average store prices have seen year-on-year growth across all sectors, with the largest increase noted in fuel stores.

Sterling has now surged to $1.3 dollars as consumer spending on household goods (up 8.3% year-on-year) and fashion (up 7.5%) beat expectations. Sales volumes also increased by 4% last month this year compared with April 2016, and were also upon March by 2.3%.

Retail Economics chief executive Richard Lim said: “The latest data showed shoppers continued to shrug off any Brexit and political uncertainty with retail sales beating even the most optimistic expectations. Despite the surge in inflation and squeeze on households’ finances, consumers were out in force during the Easter break with the warm weather driving sales across the sector.”

Online sales were especially strong, rocketing by 19% year on year over March and April 2017, meaning that online sales now account for over 15.5% of all retail spending, excluding vehicle fuel, compared to 14% in the same period last year. In April 2017 average weekly spending online was £1.0 billion.

This bulletin presents estimates of the quantity bought (volume) and amount spent (value) in the retail industry for the period 2 April 2017 to 29 April 2017. Unless otherwise stated, the estimates in this release are seasonally adjusted.

The Retail Sales Index (RSI) measures the value and volume of retail sales in Great Britain on a monthly basis. Data are collected from businesses in the retail industry and the survey’s results are used to produce seasonally adjusted monthly, quarterly and annual estimates of output in the retail industry at current price and at chained volume measures (removing the effect of inflation). Unless otherwise stated all estimates included in this release are based on seasonally adjusted data.

Looking at the wider pattern over the past few years, between 2010 and the end of 2013, the quantity bought in the retail sector remained relatively flat. The underlying pattern then changed to one of strong growth, lasting for a record period of 36 months, before starting to fall at the end of 2016.

The latest results for April 2017 results show a slight return to growth in the 3 month on 3 month measure, and since 2010 there has been an almost constant increase in the amount spent, slowing slightly throughout 2015 to the middle of 2016, returning back to much stronger growth.