Furniture retail sales down in April; carpets also decline

Furniture retail sales fell during April on last month but did show an increase against an annual comparison.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, furniture and lighting retail sales decreased 18% to £1.3bn from £1.6bn in March. Compared to the previous year, sales rose 8% from £1.2bn.

Floorcovering retail sales also declined month-on-month, down by 18.1% to £219.6m from £268.4m. Compared to the same time last year, sales increased slightly by 0.04% from £219.5m.

Total non-food stores sales volumes (the total of department, clothing, household and other non-food stores) rose by 1.0% over the month. Sales volumes partially recovered from a fall of 1.8% in March 2023 when feedback from retailers suggested that poor weather conditions affected sales.

Overall, total retail sales volume (quantity bought) in April fell by 3%, while the value (amount spent) increased by 4.7% to £38.7bn year-on-year. On a monthly comparison, volumes were up 0.5%, with the value spent also up by 1.1%.

Online spending values rose by 1.5% in April 2023 because of monthly increases across food stores, other non-food stores and non-store retailing. The proportion of retail sales taking place online remains above the pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels (19.9% in February 2020).

Commenting on the retail sales figures for April, ONS Chief Economist Grant Fitzner said: “Retail sales grew, partially rebounding from a poor weather affected March, with jewellers, sports retailers and department stores all having a good month. Despite continued high food prices, supermarkets also recovered from the fall in March. However, these were partly offset by a drop in the amount of fuel sold, despite prices also dropping.”

Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Despite households still feeling the squeeze from the high cost of living, sales growth improved in April. Nonetheless, consumers continued to adjust their spending patterns, looking for lower price alternatives on many key products, leading to falling sales volumes. Electrical goods performed particularly poorly, while books and stationary saw a uplift due to Spring promotions and consumers starting to purchase their summer reads.

“Sales should improve further as we enter the summer months, especially with inflation starting to ease and consumer confidence slowly stabilising. Government must ensure it does not sabotage this momentum by adding cost pressures onto retailers from new policies, as these will mainly serve to push prices back up for people up and down the country.”

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