The late Easter in April helped boost retail sales and offset slower spending in the previous month.
According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, UK retail sales increased by 5.6 per cent in April on a like-for-like basis, compared with a 0.9 per cent decrease in April 2016.
On a total basis, sales rose by 6.3 per cent, compared with flat growth in the same month last year, and was the highest increase since April 2011.
In the three months to April, non-food retail sales in the UK rose by 0.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 0.7 per cent on a total basis.
Online sales of non-food products grew by 10.3 per cent in April, according to the BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor, compared with a year earlier when they fell by 6.6 per cent. This was the fastest growth seen since November 2016.
In the three months to April, online sales increased 8.2 per cent year on year, the highest growth since January.
In April, online sales accounted for 21.6 per cent of total non-food sales in the UK, compared with 21.1 per cent in the same month a year ago.
In-store sales continued their downward trend, falling 1.3 per cent on a total basis and 1.8 per cent on a LFL basis in the three months to April.
However, in April alone, in-store sales grew, receiving a boost from the timing of Easter, and showing their strongest growth since January 2016.
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson (pictured) commented: “April marked a reversal of the trend of slowing levels of growth for online non-food sales with the strongest annual increase since November. This pick-up was mirrored in the overall non-food figure, which was distorted positively by the timing of Easter.
“Trendy consumer electronics continue to be online best-sellers, while toys and health and beauty products topped the Easter purchases.
“Online continues to account for over a fifth of total non-food sales, but as we’ve seen in previous years, the school holidays boosted family visits to physical shopping destinations over online sites, resulting in the fastest growth for stores since last January.
“Looking at the bigger picture, the 12-month average shows a downward trend in online growth, albeit reversed in April. This points to the significance of retailers’ ongoing efforts to invest in the customer offer across all channels, as they contend with rising cost pressures and dampened consumer spend.”
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “For online retailers who eagerly awaited this year’s late Easter, their patience paid off. Compared with last month’s comparatively low growth, April’s non-food online sales were up by a much healthier 10.3 per cent.
“On the other hand, penetration rates in April dipped slightly to 21.6 per cent, adding to the gradual decline noted since the beginning of the year. This month’s decline is most likely the result of shoppers feeling more inclined to hit the high street, helped by the milder weather and the days getting longer.
“The prominence of online retail is only set to continue, and critical to a retailer’s success will be their ability to effectively combine online and off-line sales activities.”