The Retail Sales Statistics for March 2017 revealed a month-on-month drop in sales, despite the spike in spending for Mother's Day. The key findings from the Retail Statistics showed:
- The 3 months to March shows a decrease of 1.4%; the third consecutive decrease for the underlying 3 month on 3 month pattern.
- Looking at the quarterly movement, the 3 months to March 2017 (Quarter 1) is the first quarterly decline since 2013 (Quarter 4).
- In March 2017, the quantity bought in the retail industry is estimated to have increased by 1.7% compared with March 2016 and decreased by 1.8% compared with February 2017; decreases are seen across the four main store types.
- Average store prices (including fuel) increased by 3.3% on the year, the largest growth since March 2012; the largest contribution came from petrol stations, where year-on-year average prices rose by 16.4%.
- Online sales (excluding automotive fuel) increased year-on-year by 19.5% and by 0.5% on the month, accounting for approximately 15.5% of all retail spending.
Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at top-20 UK accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, said: "Despite a spending increase year on year of around 5.1%, the amount spent actually dropped during March 2017. Even though retail events such as Mother's Day could lead to expectations of sales increases, it was not enough.
"We also have to bear in mind that, compared to last year, Easter was held a month later – so any sales that were made during March 2016 for Easter would have been put back to April this year, and may be an explanation as to why the figures seem to have dropped.
"The trend is heading downwards overall as retailers are under pressure to keep prices keen for their customers. It will be interesting to see how the recent announcement relating to a snap general election will affect April retail sales, and if there will be an overall impact on customer confidence."