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UK spending falls in April, but fashion shines as demand for occasionwear returns

By Huw Hughes

10 May 2022

Retail

Image: FashionUnited

Consumers in the UK cut down on their spending last month as the cost of living rose, but fashion continued to outperform other categories as Brits geared up for summer social events, new data shows.

Overall sales dropped by 0.3 percent year-over-year in April, the first decline in the past 15 months, according to the latest BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor.

Like-for-like retail sales were down by 1.7 percent.

However, on a three-year basis, retail sales were up 3.9 percent in April compared with the same month in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

“The rising cost of living has crushed consumer confidence and put the brakes on consumer spending,” said Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium.

“Sales growth has been slowing since January, though the real extent of this decline has been masked by rising inflation,” she said.

Rebound in occasionwear

The data showed that big ticket items were hardest hit in April, as consumers cut their spending on furniture, electricals and other homeware. This was further compounded by delays on goods coming from China.

On a brighter note, sunny weather in April helped boost spending in fashion, especially in occasionwear, as Brits updated their spring-summer wardrobes for activities like weddings and holidays.

The occasionwear category was one of the biggest casualties of the pandemic, as lockdowns saw the end of large social events.

But according to separate data from Barclaycard, almost a fifth (17 percent) of Brits expect to spend more on social events and holidays this summer to make up for lost time during the pandemic.

Of that group, 27 percent are planning to spend more on new clothes and accessories, while 13 percent expect to spend more on beauty products.

This behaviour was reflected in retail spending in April, with the clothing category experiencing a 12.6 percent uplift, according to Barclaycard.