In April, UK retail sales decreased by -4.2% on a LFL basis from April 2017, when they had increased +5.6% from the preceding year, reports the BRC–KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

On a total basis, sales declined -3.1%, against an increase of +6.3% in April 2017, both distorted by the timing of Easter. This is below the three-month and 12-month averages of 0.4% and 1.2% respectively, and the sharpest decline recorded by the monitor since its inception in January 1995.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE says: “A drop in sales this April, compared to last, was almost inevitable given the earlier timing of Easter. With much of the spending in preparation for the Bank Holiday weekend falling in March this year, a record low in sales growth, in contrast to last year’s record high, does not come as a surprise.

"However, even once we take account of these seasonal distortions, the underlying trend in sales growth is heading downwards.

“The first glimpse of summer may have temporarily lifted clothing and footwear, but non-food sales overall continue to be weak. Consumers’ discretionary spending power remains under pressure and the reality is that with only a gradual return to solid growth in real incomes expected, the market environment is likely to remain extremely challenging for most retailers.

“The retail industry is undergoing an unprecedented period of change the impact of which is being laid bare for us all to see across the nation's high streets. Retailers are reacting to this change to ensure it represents a positive reinvention of our industry, investing in technology and innovation and providing digital training to employees to improve the customer experience."

Paul Martin, head of retail, KPMG, adds: “Retailers have got their work cut out to overcome seemingly endless obstacles, whether it be unpredictable weather or the introduction of new regulation, like GDPR. The upcoming months will provide a number of opportunities for retailers to drive sales and navigate this assault course, including Bank holidays, World Cup and of course the Royal wedding, although it is clear that trading will remain challenging.”

Over the three months to April, in-store sales of non-food items declined -3.8% on a total basis and -4.9% on a LFL basis – a record low since this measure began in January 2013. On a 12-month basis, the total decline was -2.9%, another record low.

Online penetration rate increased from 20.8% in April 2017 to 22.0% in April 2018.