UK retail sales decreased in March 2017, currently standing at its lowest three-month average in the last five years, finds the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for March. However, experts assess, with Easter around the corner, the month of April could bring an uptick in numbers that will offset the current distortion.
Covering the five weeks 26 February – 1 April 2017
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium
“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
“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
“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.”
- ENDS –
Notes to editors:
The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor measures changes in the actual value (including VAT) of retail sales, excluding automotive fuel. The Monitor measures the value of spending and hence does not adjust for price or VAT changes. If prices are rising, sales volumes will increase by less than sales values. In times of price deflation, sales volumes will increase by more than sales values.
Retailers report the value of their sales for the current period and the equivalent
period a year ago. These figures are reported both in total and on a ‘like-for-like’ basis.
Total sales growth is the percentage change in the value of all sales compared to the same period a year earlier. The total sales measure is used to assess market level trends in retail sales. It is a guide to the growth of the whole retail
industry, or how much consumers in total are spending in retail – retail spending represents approximately one-third of consumer spending. It is this measure that is often used by economists. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of total sales.
‘Like-for-like’ sales growth (LFL) is the percentage change in the value of comparable sales compared to the same period a year earlier. It excludes any spending in stores that opened or closed in the intervening year, thus stripping out the effect on sales of changes in floorspace. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of like-for-like comparable sales.
The like-for-like measure is often used by retailers, the city and analysts to assess the performance of individual companies, retail sectors and the industry overall, without the distorting effect of changes in floorspace.
Online (including mail order and phone) sales of non-food are transactions which take place over the internet, or via mail order or phone. Online sales growth is the percentage change in the value of online sales compared to those in the same period a year earlier. It is a guide to the growth of sales made by these non-store channels. It should be noted that online sales are still a small proportion of total UK retail sales. Estimates based on ONS figures show about 10 per cent of total UK retail sales (food and non-food) are achieved via the internet.
The responses provided by retailers within each sales category are weighted (based on weightings derived from the ONS Family Spending survey) to reflect the contribution of each category to total retail sales, thus making it representative of UK retail sales as a whole. Because the figures compare sales this month with the comparable period last year, a seasonal adjustment is not
made. However, changes in the timing of Bank Holidays and Easter can create
distortions, which should be considered in the interpretation of the data.
As well as receiving sales value direct from the retailers in the scheme the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor also receives food and drink sales value data from the IGD’s Market Track Scheme.
In its role as sponsor of the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, KPMG is responsible for the aggregation of the retail sales data provided by the retailers on a weekly basis. This data consists of the relevant current week’s sales data and comparative sales figures for the same period in the prior year. The
aggregation has been performed by KPMG on data for periods following 2 April 2000 and equivalent prior periods. The accuracy of the data is entirely the responsibility of the retailers providing it. The sponsorship role has been
performed by KPMG since 10 April 2000 and the same for the aggregation of comparative sales figures for the period from 2 April 2000 it is not responsible for the aggregation of any data included in this Monitor relating to any period prior to 2 April 2000.
The commentary from KPMG is intended to be of general interest to readers but is not advice or a recommendation and should not be relied upon without first taking professional advice. Anyone choosing to rely on it does so at his or her own risk. To the fullest extent permitted by law, KPMG will accept no responsibility or liability in connection with its sponsorship of the Monitor and its aggregation work to any party other than the BRC.
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The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the UK’s leading retail trade association. It represents the full range of retailers, large and small, multiples and independents, food and non-food, online and store based.
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