Skip to main content

+44 (0) 121 237 1130


BHETA Economic Snapshot – May commentary

Glimmers of hope, or is it just the weather?

Commentary from Paul Grinsell, home improvement and garden sector director at BHETA

“No one could argue that the first quarter of 2018 has been anything other than a rough ride for retailers, topped off by March’s extreme weather conditions with the Beast from the East credited at least in part with the recent rise in gas prices! Now, in contrast the sun is shining and while I am hardly about to suggest that things are all about to be perfect again – there are far too many uncertainties around for that – April’s figures do show a few slight positives and not just in the garden industry.

“April’s retail sales values (ex-fuel) rose 1.3% from the previous month and are 3.4% higher than April 2017. Add to that the fact that unemployment is at a record low and we have an unexpected fall in inflation to its lowest level since the beginning of last year and there ought to be some room for optimism. We are after all just inching back into real wage growth.

“Despite these statistics, however, the market feels flat at best. Commodity prices are rising, there is no great upturn in the housing market and big High Street names disappearing or at least announcing cutbacks does not exactly lift the mood. According to the CBI’s monthly distributive trades survey, in the year to April 31% of retailers reported sales growth compared to 33% reporting a decline, which perhaps sums up the situation.

“The most recent figures show poorer trading evident in department stores and in interior products like furniture and carpets. Some growth was apparent in grocery; and in DIY and garden as the season kicked in. Unsurprisingly, it was online retail that was most positive, yet again highlighting the need for all retailers to invest in the technology to create convincing omnichannel offers, which blend instore experience with online convenience and speed.

“Moreover, it is this fundamental need for changes in the retail model that is evident in the feeling of disparity between many of the official figures and the atmosphere in the High Street. While quarterly rentals and the turn of the financial year lie behind some of the retail headlines, others are equally attributable to directors deciding to ‘grasp the nettle’ and close unprofitable stores. In other words, much of what is happening reflects ongoing structural changes in retail as well as present sales performance.

“In conclusion then, if this is true, then maybe there is room amongst the painful decisions and continued pressure for that little glimmer of hope for improving times. Again, to quote the CBI survey, many respondents remain positive about the coming months compared to the same time last year. It will be interesting to see what two Bank holidays; warm weather and a royal wedding will have done to May’s figures.”

For more information about BHETA, contact the Member Services Team on 0121 237 1130

Source: BHETA May 2018
May 2018

Share this Post

Strictly Necessary

These cookies are required for our website to operate and include items such as whether or not to display this pop-up box or your session when logging in to the website. These cookies cannot be disabled.


We use 3rd party services such as Google Analytics to measure the performance of our website. This helps us tailor the site content to our visitors needs.


From time to time, we may use cookies to store key pieces of information to make our site easier for you to use. Examples of this are remembering selected form options to speed up future uses of them. These cookies are not necessary for the site to work, but may enhance the browsing experience.


We may use advertising services that include tracking beacons to allow us to target our visitors with specific adverts on other platforms such as search or social media. These cookies are not required but may improve the services we offer and promote.

Change Settings

Welcome. You can control how we use cookies and 3rd party services below

Change Settings Accept
Learn how we use cookies