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PwC comments on April 2022 ONS retail sales figures

20 May 2022

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for April 2022

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:

"Retail sales appeared to confound expectations in April, rising by 1.4% in volume terms compared to March, and reversing the decline we saw last month. However, virtually all of this growth was concentrated in grocery stores, which benefited from alcohol and confectionery sales reflecting the later Easter and good weather; as well as online, which saw some recovery from March’s post-pandemic low, with penetration stabilising at 27% vs. the 25.9% seen last month. Overall, retail sales remain almost 5% ahead of pre-pandemic levels in volume terms - and 12% in value terms ahead, once accounting for inflation

"Despite the seeming good news, as the cost of living crisis begins to bite, the more negative omens seen in recent months have not gone away. Non-food sales continued to slow this month, and are barely above pre-pandemic levels. In particular, slowdowns in furniture and DIY reflect concern about investment in big ticket items. While fashion retail improved slightly - helped by socialising and good weather over Easter - clothing sales remained below pre-pandemic levels

"While April saw inflation rise to the highest level in a generation, this has yet to affect retail sales in the past month. As utility bills hit, and mortgage interest rates rise, the record decline in consumer sentiment that we found last month will inevitably affect spending later in the year. Bigger ticket has already shown itself to be a leading indicator of this. Without further support for struggling households, retail sales will only go one way in the rest of 2022. "  


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