Flat month on high street as fashion hit by weather woes

Retailers suffered a 'dire month' for sales. Picture: John Devlin
Retailers suffered a 'dire month' for sales. Picture: John Devlin
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Retail sales flatlined for the second month in a row as colder weather hit the launch of spring fashion ranges, according to a report today.

The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG survey showed total retail spending was flat in April, admittedly compared to a fall of 1.3 per cent a year ago, while like-for-like sales slipped 0.9 per cent last month.

It noted that retail sales were knocked by a “dire month” from fashion outlets as unseasonable weather dampened shoppers’ interest in the launch of spring and summer clothing ranges. The survey had previously reported that total retail sales were also unmoved in March.

A range of economic data has recently showed retail sales beginning to slow after having been a key driver of the UK economy. Consumer spending has played a crucial part in offsetting weaker export sales and manufacturing growth.

READ MORE: Mixed performance for Scottish retail in March

Last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product grew by 0.4 per cent in the first three months of 2016, down from 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, following a poor performance from the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Last week, Next warned that full-year profits could take a hit after sales for the first quarter fell 0.9 per cent as cold weather dampened demand for its clothing.

The BRC-KPMG report said clothing stores posted a their worst declines since September 2014.

Home accessories sales were the top performer last month, benefiting from a housing market that has been buoyed by the government’s Help to Buy scheme.

READ MORE: Housebuilders upbeat despite construction blues

Over the three months to April total food revenue slipped 0.2 per cent compared to a year ago, while like-for-like sales fell 1.7 per cent over the same period, as supermarket price wars continue to grip the industry.

David McCorquodale, UK head of retail at accountant KPMG, said “consumers still appear to be hooked on a diet of discounts, deflationary trends in the sector look set to continue”.

McCorquodale added: “Overall, retail sales slowed during April with temperatures well below the average for the time of year.”

Economist Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said the survey findings “reinforced already rapidly mounting concerns over second-quarter GDP growth prospects given the key role that consumer spending has been playing in growth”.