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Customers need more certainty
May '10
UK retail sales values fell 2.3% on a like-for-like basis from April 2009, when sales had picked up 4.6%, boosted then by Easter falling in April 2009 but March 2008. The April trading period included only Easter Sunday and Monday this year, but all of Easter in 2009. On a total basis, sales fell 0.2% against a 6.3% increase in April 2009.

Non-food was also affected by the earlier Easter, but also by pre-election uncertainty and consumer caution, which favoured essentials and replacements over discretionary items. Clothing and footwear slowed and homewares fell back below year-earlier levels, despite some further discounts and promotions.

Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail, KPMG, said:
"The timing of the majority of Easter spending, falling into last month but in April last year, has deflated this month's figures and makes year-on-year comparisons difficult. However, even taking this into account, the general malaise of the consumer is evident and looks likely to remain, for a while at least, given the uncertain political and economic environment. Due to the Spring weather earlier in the month, women's clothing and footwear picked up after a challenging March but food and anything home related were hit hard by the distorting effects of Easter. Retailers are working hard to manage their costs and stay competitive while demand remains so volatile."

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said:
“April's sales were down on a year ago, but that's because of the Easter effect. This April's trading period only included the last two days of Easter, while last year's had the entire build-up and holiday weekend.

“Both food and non-food sales growth slipped back this April because people had already done their Easter spending in the previous month. The three-month average irons out the Easter distortions. It shows total sales up 3.8 per cent this year compared with 2.2 per cent in the same three months in 2009.

“There's no question customers are more willing to spend than 12 months ago but still nervous. People need to know how a new Government's moves to tackle the deficit will affect their incomes and jobs. Even if the measures are tough, knowing what they are could be better than the current uncertainty.”

British Retail Consortium

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