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UK retail sales plunge after wettest April on record

UK retail sales plunge after wettest April on record
Wednesday May 23 2012

Clothing retailers suffered their worst sales performance in nearly four years in April, official figures showed today, as heavy rain dampened kept shoppers at home.

Clothing sales volumes plunged 5.2 per cent month-on-month in April to the lowest level since June 2008, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, as retailers failed to shift summer clothing stocked up in unseasonably warm March.

Total retail sales volumes fell by a worse-than-expected 2.3 per cent on the month, the lowest level in nearly two-and-a-half years, although this was distorted by a record plunge in petrol and diesel sales following the threat of a fuel tanker strike the previous month.

Stripping out the impact of fuel sales, total retail sales volumes were down 1 per cent. The inclement weather triggered a 1.7 per cent drop at non-food stores, the ONS said, while food stores saw a 0.6 per cent decline.

Non-store retailing volumes, which include internet sales, increased 1.4 per cent on the month.

Consumers spent £25.9 billion in the four weeks of April, compared with £32.6bn in the five weeks of March.

The average weekly amount spent online is now up 18 per cent when compared with a year ago at £489 million.

Commenting on the ONS Retail Sales figures, Richard Lowe, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays, said:
“April was the wettest since records began, which was a blow for the high street but, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is almost upon us and the weather has begun to improve so sales should start to pick up.  
“When it comes to the British weather there is no such thing as a perfect year but typically, over the course of a twelve-month period, bouts of bad weather will be evened out by brighter spells - smoothing sales in the process”.