Retail news round-up: Online parcels; falling prices; worst and best retailers

Online retail parcel delivery order volumes were up + 13.9% year on year in April, according to IMRG data. Easter fell early this year (in March), so a dip in volumes may have been expected in April due to a tough comparator with last year, when Easter was in April. However, the monthly decline on March was only marginal (-0.3%).
Average order values have seen a gradual increase for 14 months in a row. ‘While it may be expected that the favourable exchange rate for the euro against the pound may be driving demand from shoppers based in the EU, it is actually UK-based shoppers who have fuelled most of this increase,’ said IMRG’s Andrew Starkey.

Overall, shop prices fell by 1.1% in May compared with the same month last year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/Nielsen Shop Price Index. The fall in prices of non-food items was 2.5% lower than recorded for 2017, the deepest decline since August 2016.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that retailers’ overall sales revenues were under pressure from falling prices at a time when business rates and other public policy decisions were pushing up operating costs, ‘leaving retailers squeezed at both ends’.

WH Smith has been rated the worst high street retailer in the UK in a Which? survey. Shoppers criticised customer service, value for money and the standard of its stores, and also complained of out-of-date shops, expensive products and rude staff.
John Lewis fell to 10th place, its worst ranking since the survey was launched in 2010. The cosmetics stores Lush, health and beauty discount chain Savers and Smyths Toys – none of which made last year’s top 10 – were the highest ranking shops.

Britons were feeling more upbeat about their personal finances in May, according to GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index which increased two points. However, Joe Staton, the company’s chief strategy director, says that they remain ‘resolutely downbeat’ about the general state of the economy.

BHS.com is to be scrapped by its Al Mana Group owners less than two years after it was launched. The Qatari parent group said it was shifting focus to its BH International franchise business. The website will close on June 27, with final deliveries to customers by July 5.

Selfridges has been named Best Department Store in the World 2018 at the Global Department Store Summit at Westminster’s QEII Centre. The award coincides with Selfridges’ multi-million pound transformation.

The ‘Retail at Bay’ study from the Centre for Retail Research predicts that more than 10,000 outlets will disappear from high streets in 2018 – the worst-ever year on record.

Hamleys has partnered with Bandai Namco Amusement to open its first stores in Japan this year. The toy retailer has 133 stores in 19 nations.

Alan Monahan