Weather has already been partly blamed for poor economic growth, in particular in December 2010 and January 2011. April 2012 is no different – the wettest April on record is said to have caused the worst performance in sales since March 2011.
Like-for-like sales fell by 3.3%, mainly through lower demand for clothes and shoes. Supermarkets saw an increased demand for warmer food items with the colder weather and demand for home products also increased, with analysts suggesting that people decided to re-decorate their houses rather than venture outside! This was further supported by sales of gardening equipment, which also fell. However, the weather is not always bad – in March, sales were higher than expected, with the unusually warm weather, but unfortunately for growth statistics, the boost in sales in March has been more than offset by the decline in sales in April. Furthermore, there are concerns that the March ‘heat-wave’ may have encouraged consumers to do their summer shopping already and hence summer sales may suffer.
The retail data for April 2012 must be considered carefully, as comparing this month’s sales with the same period last year will be very misleading. Last April, the UK was hit with the Royal Wedding, which did boost sales of many products – underlying sales growth was recorded at 5.2% for the month. However, whilst April sales for 2012 could hardly hope to compete with April sales for 2011, the downward trend is undoubtedly going to cause concern for the government. Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail at KPMG said:
“While May will certainly be brighter than April, the health of the retail sector continues on a downward trajectory.”
Whether or not sales do continue their downward trend depends on many factors, including government policy measures to boost growth and cut unemployment. However, one other variable that may influence the trend is the weather. Here’s hoping that the sun shines and people begin to spend!
Weaker retail sales, job surveys raise risk of longer slump Reuters, Olesya Dmitracova (9/5/12)
Wettest April ‘hits retail sales’ BBC News (9/5/12)
Retail sales slide in wettest April on record Telegraph (9/5/12)
April showers wash out retail sales Financial Times, Sarah O’Connor (9/5/12)
Retail sales slip back 1 per cent as fashion stores weather April showers Independent, James Thompson (9/5/12)
- Use a demand and supply diagram to illustrate the effects of the weather on equilibrium price and output.
- What other factors besides the weather affect retail sales?
- What government policy measures could be implemented to try to boost the retail sector?
- From the information you are told are there any sectors that surprise you in terms of whether sales have risen or fallen? Explain your answer in each case.
- With sales in April falling, what is the implication for a firm’s profits? What steps might a firm take in a bid to boost sales?