Strong April retail figures downplayed

Retail sales figures for April, released today, have shown a surprising year-on-year growth. However, analysts have downplayed the figures, saying they do not tell the full story.

The latest monthly retail sales from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that stores predominantly selling food showed a year-on-year growth for the first time in 15 months, increasing by 1.4% year-on-year. Sales value within these stores increased by 6.1%. 

Barry Knight, head of retail at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “The warm weather, late Easter and the Royal Wedding have provided a much-needed upswing in the sales figures. However, that may just be a short-term boost.

“Leaving aside the supermarkets, which continue to trade satisfactorily, we are hearing from retailers on the ground across pretty much every single sub-sector that underlying trade is still weak. In many cases we are even starting to see online sales being affected due to weakening consumer demand.

“There are still bumpy times to come and I believe conditions will get worse before they get better.”

Earlier this week, Ernst & Young’s Items Club revealed that disposable incomes have fallen by the highest levels in 34 years and are due to remain subdued for another nine years. Its senior economic advisor, Andrew Goodwin, said that consumers would not be able to start to enjoy the recovery until 2013.


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