Small growth in this morning’s ONS retail sales figures for April 2018 gave hope to a spring bounceback, reports accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy – yet there was disappointment behind the figures as fuel price increases propped up sales volumes in other sectors.
The quantity of goods bought in the retail industry remained relatively flat, with a slight increase of +0.1% in the QoQ movement. When compared with March 2018, the quantity bought in April increased by +1.6% as all sectors excluding department stores, which were down -0.9% following strong online sales in March.
Online sales as a proportion of all retail continued to grow YoY at +17.3%, in comparison with +16.1% in April 2017.
Phil Mullis, partner and head of retail and wholesale at Wilkins Kennedy, says: “Compared to last year, the retail sales showed a +1.3% growth in sales volume – but looking back two years ago, where growth was +2.9%, you can see that growth has slowed down.
“We also need to consider the figures in some detail. The +1.3% growth has come from an amalgamation on March and April – because of the fall of Easter Sunday this year. Plus, a significant part of that growth came from a rise in fuel prices, all other sectors experienced little or no increase.
“There is no doubt that retail sales are still flat, and the news that big retailers are closing down completely is a reminder of the threat and the changing times. However, there could be some good news on the horizon. Inflation fell to 2.4% during April, so it is unlikely that interest rates will rise this year. That will mean less of a squeeze on spending and consumers will have more cash in their pockets.
“Looking forward into May, the good weather and Royal Wedding will hopefully bring a much-needed boost to retail sales.”