No silver lining for retailers as April showers dampen high street spend

by | May 24, 2024

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  • Retail sales down 2.3% in April
  • Proportion of sales online increased but the value of that spend fell 1.2%
  • Non-food retailing was the biggest drag as persistent rain impacted clothing and sports equipment sales

Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell, comments on the latest UK retail sales figures:

“There was nothing charming about the rainfall that soaked our high streets in April. 

“People stuck close to home. There was little need to fill up the car if you weren’t taking any unnecessary journeys and sales at the pump suffered their biggest monthly fall since October 2021. 


“It didn’t help that Easter came early and all those tasty chocolate eggs and family feasts were totted up in the previous month’s numbers, but even then, March’s flat lining sales were revised down.

“Consumers are still looking for ways to keep a tight hold on their stretched finances. If they don’t need to spend, they probably won’t, even if they’ve found a few more pennies in their pay packets thanks to the increase in the National Living Wage and a cut in National Insurance contributions. Part of this will be because many of those extra pennies were quickly sucked up by increases in broadband and mobile phone costs, rising water bills and bigger council tax payouts. 

“The rainfall provided a handy excuse not to venture out to update spring wardrobes and not to splash out on outdoor sports equipment that would be left to languish in sheds and garages until things cleared up. Retailers will be hoping that summer months won’t just brighten skies but also their fortunes and consumer confidence is improving slowly. 


“But the shock of the last few years on personal finances has made many wary. People have done without and can continue to make do if it means they can create a little pot of emergency cash to help keep their feet dry. And even if consumers can avoid the puddles outside, they’ve still been spending less online despite a greater proportion of shopping being carried out that way in April. 

“With a summer of sport headed our way the retail sector will be hoping for long, dry days filled with BBQs, weddings and people moving house – all reasons to splurge that get the tills ringing.” 

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