April retail sales plummet due to severe weather conditions

April proved challenging for UK retailers as heavy rain and stormy weather significantly affected sales, resulting in a sharp decline.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 2.3% fall in retail sales from the previous month, easily exceeding analyst forecasts of a 0.5% decline.

Bad weather deterred shoppers, leading to poor performance across sectors. According to the ONS, clothing stores, sporting goods stores, games and toy stores and furniture stores were particularly affected by the reduced footfall.

In addition to the dismal April figures, March sales data was revised downwards to reflect a 0.2% decline from February, contrary to initial estimates that there would be no change.

April saw severe weather, with numerous flood warnings issued across Britain, contributing to the slump in retail activity. Online sales, which typically show resilience to adverse weather conditions, also fell 1.2% this month.

While the ONS adjusts sales figures seasonally, the shift from Easter from April last year to March this year was a factor that was not fully taken into account, complicating monthly comparisons.

On a more positive note, retail sales in the three months leading up to April 2024 showed an increase of 0.7% compared to the previous three months ending January 2024. However, the ONS attributed this increase mainly to exceptionally poor performance in December 2023, suggesting points to that low base effect rather than a robust recovery.

The challenging weather and seasonal variations underline the volatility in retail performance and highlight the sector's sensitivity to external factors. Retailers will look for more stable conditions in the coming months to regain lost ground.

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