Retail sales rise by 2.3% in April as good weather helps stores

Retail sales have outstripped expectations to rise by 2.3% in April compared with the month before, thought to be in part due to good weather.

Average prices slowed slightly in April, falling from 3.3% in March to 3.1%
Average prices slowed slightly in April, falling from 3.3% in March to 3.1%

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said sales were up by 4% compared with April last year, exceeding forecasts of 1% monthly growth and 2% year-on-year growth.

It said: “Anecdotal evidence from retailers suggests that good weather contributed to growth.”

However on a rolling three-month basis, which partially removes single month fluctuations, sales also picked up slightly.

The ONS said: “The underlying pattern, as measured by the three month on three month estimate, showed a slight increase in April 2017 following a short period of contraction, increasing by 0.3%.”

Average prices slowed slightly in April, falling from 3.3% in March to 3.1%.

The pound jumped on the news, rising 0.5% to over 1.30 US dollars.

Against the euro, sterling was 0.7% higher at 1.17 euros.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Given yesterday’s news that real wages are now falling, today’s retail sales data was always going to be closely scrutinised.

“The theory went that squeezed household budgets would likely hit retailers in the pocket too. But in fact the figures beat expectations handsomely, with sales in April 2.3% higher than in March and growing 4% year-on-year.

“April’s figures were always expected to be better than March, because of the timing of the Easter holiday, but economists had forecast a smaller rebound of 1%, and much more subdued annual growth of 2%.”

The figures are a turnaround from last month, when the ONS reported retail sales recording their biggest fall for seven years in the three months to March as rising living costs ate into household spending.

Sales fell by 1.4% over the three-month period, while also sinking well below expectations to drop by 1.8% on the month to March.

The pound’s slump since the Brexit vote has ratcheted up everyday prices as manufacturers pass down soaring costs to consumers and imported goods become more expensive.