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High Street feels the chill in April

Good weather, school holidays and Easter may have marked a sunny April for Brits but they failed to salvage the country’s suffering high streets, figures released today by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP reveal.

According to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), UK high street sales declined -0.4% year-on-year in April from a poor comparative base of -3.8% for the same month last year.

It also marked the third month of in-store sales decline so far this year and fifteen months of disappointing sales for the UK’s beleaguered high street.

The lifestyle sector saw in-store sales fall by -0.4%, marking the fifteenth consecutive month of no growth, despite a slight uptick during the record-setting warm Easter weekend.

The warm weather failed to see shoppers rush to update their wardrobes. Fashion in-store sales declined by -0.8% from a poor base of -3.3%. Homeware in-store sales increased marginally by +0.6% in April, but made little indent on the -8.8% like-for-like figures for the same month last year.

Despite another difficult month for the high street, non-store like-for-like sales grew by +18.3% in April as shoppers continue to gravitate online.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “Whilst a marginal drop in sales may not on the face of it seem significant, it has to be taken in the context of a low benchmark and, crucially, what should have been perfect shopping conditions last month.

“With record warm weather, Easter holidays and more Brits taking staycations, April should have been a bumper month for high street retailers. Instead, these factors couldn’t prevent further decline.

“Real wage growth and low unemployment usually prompt hope for retailers, but these are still not filtering through to spending. Consumer confidence – a key driver for discretionary spend – continues to be at very low levels and is worsening fortunes for the high street.”

Michael adds: “Changing consumer habits and the gradual shift to ‘just buying less’ as ethical and sustainable efforts gather pace could also be playing a part of the consistently poor retail performance.

“With the number of UK companies going into administration hitting a five-year peak and UK store closures set to top 1,000 as the use of CVAs mounts, retailers are looking to May with trepidation to see whether performance on the high street improves.”

Source : Insight DIY & BDO


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