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    Food back on growth, but overall retail sales decline in April

    Shoppers walks past a clothing stall at a market in Walthamstow, east London on February 4, 2022. (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

    Food sales were in growth in April, but overall retail sales decreased for the first time in 15 months.

    UK retail sales decreased by 0.3 per cent on a total basis and 1.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis in April, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, as rising cost of living has put brakes on spending.

    Though food was in growth year-on-year in April, over the three months to April, sales decreased 1.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.3 per cent on a total basis, reflecting the decline in sales in the past months.

    “Supported by holiday spending for Easter, at first glance food and drink sales performed well in April,” Susan Barratt, IGD chief executive, commented.

    “However, with mis-matched dates for Easter, plus our emergence from the 2021 lockdown when grocery sales were unusually elevated, it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions. However, there’s no doubt the sector is operating against a backdrop of rising inflation, which reached a 30-year-high in April and is creating an unprecedented set of challenges.”

    Non-food retail sales increased by 1.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 6.9 per cent on a total basis in the three-month period, but non-food was in decline year-on-year for the month of April.

    Over the three months to April, in-store sales of non-food items grew 59.3 per cent on a total basis and 45.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

    “Big ticket items have been hit hardest, as consumers reigned in spending on furniture, electricals and other homeware; compounded by delays on goods coming from China. Meanwhile, thanks to the April sunshine, garden goods and fashion saw stronger sales, particularly occasionwear as consumers prepared for summer and this year’s wedding season,” Helen Dickinson, chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented.

    “Retailers are experiencing higher costs as a result of rising commodity prices, transport costs, labour shortages, delays at ports, and the war in Ukraine. Further headwinds are incoming, such as rising global food prices, which rose 13% between March and April. Retailers will continue to do all they can to mitigate the effects of these costs rises, but unfortunately they cannot absorb them all,” she added.

    Online non-food sales decreased by 13.9 per cent during April, but on a three-year comparison, sales increased by 51.4 per cent in April.

    Non-food online penetration rate decreased to 38.6 per cent in April from 45.1 per cent in April 2021. However, it was up 15.2 percentage points on the 29.9 per cent seen at the same point in 2019.

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