Retail sales up 0.5% in April, figures show today.
March figures were revised down to a 1.2% fall as wet weather dampened demand.
Inflation impact clear when you compare value of sales in April with Feb 2020 – value up 16.5% but volume down 0.8%.
Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell, comments on the latest UK retail sales: “Consumers are becoming increasingly canny and squirreling cash away in order to be able to spend on the things and the celebrations that matter most.
“March was ridiculously wet, but it was also the stop gap between February’s Valentine splurge and April’s chocolate bonanza.
“With inflation so high and budgets stretched taut people are using every trick in the book to make sure they can have those magic moments with friends and family without breaking the bank.
“Trading down has become an art form and making the most of vouchers, reward cards and offers allows shoppers to stretch their cash as far as it will go.
“The fact people are still spending what they can, when they can, will be a relief to retailers but the latest inflation scare coupled with warnings that further rate hikes are likely has the potential to subdue spending even further.
“There are plenty of homeowners watching the minutes tick down to the day they have to hunt for a new deal and keeping fingers crossed that rates will have gone down by then is a strategy that looks less likely than ever to pay off.
“Look back to pre-pandemic spending and you can clearly see the impact of higher prices on consumer habits. People are buying considerably less than they were three years ago but paying a whole lot more.
“And it’s fascinating that falling prices at the pump haven’t increased sales. If people don’t need to travel, or if they can get there by cheaper means, they’re doing it. Every pound spent on fuel is a pound that can’t be spent on something else.
“We’ve seen that some things are sacrosanct, like holidays. But our summer breaks are also becoming increasingly expensive and that will ultimately have a knock on to spending over the summer and through the rest of the year.
“Uncertainty is the killer. People just don’t know what to do for the best and with messaging seemingly changing by the day the only thing they can do is try and keep some kind of cushion to protect them from further jolts.”