UK monthly Retail Sales: April Very Weak Due to Earlier Easter

Key Points


  • April was an exceptionally weak month for year-over-year retail sales growth. Value sales were up just 0.8% year over year and volumes were down 1.2%. An early Easter hit April sales: Easter Sunday fell on April 1 this year versus April 16 last year, and this pulled some Easter-related spending forward into March.
  • The nonweighted average of March and April value growth was a more respectable 3.1%. This was comfortably above the rate of shop-price inflation, which stood at 2.0% across March and April.

Retail sales growth by sector

The earlier timing of Easter this year distorted growth in March and April by pulling forward some holiday spending into March. Even so, April was a weak month, when measured by year-over-year growth.

Clothing specialists saw a second consecutive month of declining sales, grocery stores saw a drop in sales, furniture stores turned negative and sales fell at department stores/mixed-goods retailers, too.

Due to the distorting effect of Easter, we include a non-weighted average of March and April in the table below. This shows that, even once we adjust for the timing of Easter this year, growth at grocery stores, department stores/mixed-goods retailers, clothing specialists and footwear stores was weak.

The ONS reported that total shop-price inflation stood at 2.0 % in April, level with the rate seen in March. At food stores, inflation fell to 2.3 % in April, from 2.5% in March. At nonfood retailers, inflation climbed to 1.7 % in April, from 1.5 % in March.

Online retail sales growth

Total Internet retail sales were up 11.9 % year over year in April. Internet sales grew by 12.9 % at food retailers and by 16.4 % at nonfood retailers.