Royal Wedding boosted sales, but not for long

Economists urged "extreme caution" about reading too much into a strong rebound in retail sales last month, as chains were boosted by the hottest April on record, a glut of bank holidays and the Royal Wedding.

The Office for National Statistics said that sales volumes rose by 1.1 per cent last month, compared with the 1 cent rise forecast by economists and the 0.2 per cent rise seen in March.

The grocers benefited from shoppers spending on party food in the hot weather and ahead of the wedding on 29 April, while footwear and fashion chains enjoyed an early spike in customers purchasing summerwear.

While the figures provided a ray of hope to the sector, many chains expect to face tough trading for at least another year. Retailers including Dixons Retail, the owner of Currys and PC World, HMV, Mothercare and Thorntons have issued profit warnings recently. Many others have posted disappointing trading figures.

According to ONS, sales by value, including price rises, rose by 1.6 per cent between March and April. However, many economists said the figures provided little insight into the true state of consumer spending.

Barry Knight, head of retail at Grant Thornton UK, said: "Leaving aside the supermarkets which continue to trade satisfactorily, we are hearing from retailers on the ground across pretty much every single sub-sector that underlying trade is still weak. In many cases we are even starting to see online sales being affected due to weakening consumer demand." The buoyant ONS survey follows even perkier data from the British Retail Consortium, which reported that like-for-like retail sales rose by 5.2 per cent in April.

On the ONS figures, Nida Ali, the economic advisor to the Ernst & Young Item Club, said: "We would be extremely cautious about reading too much into these figures. Despite the upbeat April data, sales volumes rose by just 0.2 per cent in the three months to April."

Ms Ali said: "The broader picture of a weak consumer outlook remains unchanged. High inflation is eroding real incomes – evident particularly from this month's inflation and wage growth data – and the labour market remains weak. Moreover, highly indebted households are eager to pay down debt, and this combined with strict fiscal consolidation means that cautious consumers will be reluctant to loosen their purse strings. Indeed, UK retailers will have to be more resourceful than ever to secure a share of their wallets."

Compared with last year, ONS said that sales revenues rose by 2.8 per cent in April, while sales by value, including price rises, leapt by 6.2 per cent. Food shops were the star performers, growing sales volumes by 1.4 per cent – the first rise for 15 months – and by 6.1 per cent by value, as grocers pushed through price rises.

Among non-food chains, non-specialised stores enjoyed the biggest rise of 4.4 per cent in sales volumes. Textile, clothing and footwear stores also benefited from 2.2 per cent growth.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

$125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick