18 May 2017

This morning’s Retail Sales Statistics for April 2017 reported a spring in the step of sales figures, thanks to the Easter weekend. But, an underlying pattern could cast a shadow over sunny sales in May.

The key findings from the Retail Statistics showed:

  • In April 2017, the quantity bought in the retail industry increased by 2.3% compared with March 2017 and by 4.0% compared with April 2016.
  • The underlying pattern, as measured by the 3 month on 3 month estimate, showed a slight increase in April 2017 following a short period of contraction, increasing by 0.3%. 
  • Anecdotal evidence from retailers suggests that good weather contributed to growth. 
  • Average prices slowed slightly in April 2017, falling from 3.3% in March to 3.1% in April. 

Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at top-20 UK accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, said: “The figures show an overall increase in sales, but if you take into account the underlying patterns over a three-month-by three-month period, the actual increase is only 1.5% as there was no growth in March.

“Any growth is good news for retailers, but to get a more accurate figure we’d need to look at the sales for May and June to determine whether or not the growth has been sustained.

“A sunny Bank Holiday weekend and the Easter holidays clearly went quite far in helping the rise in sales. Added to that the Easter period last year during March was a bit of a washout.

“Looking forward to next month, there could be a challenge on the horizon as fuel prices are set to rise and that could have an impact on the sales figures. They will either reveal less volume as people have less to spend, or they will reveal an increase in spend as consumers take the hit of inflation hikes.”

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