- In March, UK retail sales decreased by 1.0% on a like-for-like basis from March 2016, when they had decreased 0.7% from the preceding year.
- On a total basis, sales fell 0.2% in March, against flat growth in March 2016. This remains below the 3-month average of 0.1% and the 12-month average of 0.8%, but is negatively distorted by the timing of Easter.
- Over the three-months to March, Food sales decreased 0.2% on a like-for-like basis and increased 1.2% on a total basis. This is the first time in four months that the 3-month average Total growth has been below 2.0%. The 12-month Total average growth rose to 1.5%, the highest since April.
- Over the three-months to March, Non-Food retail sales in the UK declined 1.1% on a like-for-like basis and 0.8% on a total basis. This is the slowest 3-month Total average growth since May 2011, and drags the 12-month Total average growth to 0.3%, the lowest since April 2012.
- Over the three-months to March, Online sales of Non-Food products grew 7.4% while In-store sales declined 3.0% on a Total basis and 3.4% on a like-for-like basis.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium commented:??First impressions of March?s sales figures are underwhelming, with the first decline since August last year. That said, the distortion which results from the timing of Easter always makes Spring a tricky period to assess and the later timing of the holiday this year certainly detracted from last month?s performance.
?Mother?s Day gift purchases provided some compensation, boosting sales of beauty and stationary items in particular. Looking at the bigger picture though, the slowdown in non-food growth persists and it now stands at its lowest three-month average for nearly six years.
?Meanwhile, food sales continue to outperform non-food sales as shoppers focus their spending on essential items. This marginal growth in food was bolstered by slightly higher shop prices following increases in global food commodity costs and a weaker pound. The pressure on prices continues to build, albeit slowly, and will inevitably put a tighter squeeze on disposable income and so to ensure consumers continue to enjoy great quality, choice and value on goods, securing tariff free-trade must be the priority as the Brexit negotiations begin in earnest.?
Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG said: ?March proved a disappointing end to the first quarter for retailers, with like-for-like sales in the month down 1 per cent on last year. Easter being later in the year is likely to have contributed to the bleaker picture, alongside the other obstacles facing the sector ? especially increased input costs.
?Food sales remained in the black for a full quarter, although this is largely being driven by rising inflation, so no reason for too much celebration. Women?s footwear certainly stepped up, encouraged by the arrival of spring collections. Meanwhile, the rise in jewellery and beauty products is likely to have been helped by Mother?s Day.
?Retailers will be hoping Easter boosts retail sales in April, whether it?s shoppers making the most of the holiday or those choosing to spruce up their homes. The new tax year marks further pressure on margins in the form of the apprenticeship levy and business rate changes, therefore tighter cost management and a focus on efficiency is more important than ever.?
Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive, IGD stated:??It?s always difficult to interpret the food retail figures for March because of the shifting Easter week. Although sales dipped versus last year, there is every opportunity for retailers to recoup the lost ground in April.
?Easter is the second-biggest peak in the year for food shopping and just as at Christmas, online is playing a growing part. 43% of shoppers say they have bought some of their groceries online in the last month, while 60% intend to shop online for groceries over the next three years.?