Retail sales

Britain’s retailers suffered the sharpest drop in business in more than two decades last month as bad weather, the squeeze on household budgets and the timing of Easter led to a hefty cut in consumer spending.

In the latest evidence of the slowdown in the economy since the turn of the year, the latest health check from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG found that sales were down by 3.1% in April, the biggest decline since the survey was launched in 1995.

Spending on non-food items has been particularly hard hit over the last three months, and retailers are braced for tough trading conditions to continue for the rest of the year even though wages have now started to rise more quickly than prices.

Quick guide

The state of UK retail’s ill-health

Show Hide Retailers that have gone bust 2017-18

Toys R Us: 180 stores employing 3,000 staff, collapsed 28 February. Owes £15m in VAT, due by 1 March.

Maplin: 200 electronics and gadget stores, founded 1972, also failed on 28 February.

Warren Evans: bedmaker went into administration earlier in February.

East: fashion brand with nearly 50 outlets folded in January.

Juice Corp: business behind brands including Elizabeth Emanuel and Joe Bloggs went under in January.

Multiyork: furniture chain with 50 stores went into administration in November.

Feather & Black: bedroom furniture and bedding specialist with 25 outlets fell into administration in November.

Retailers under pressure

New Look has debts of more than £1bn and has lost some of its credit insurance cover, which protects suppliers if a retailer goes bust. In the 10 months to Christmas, sales fell 11% and losses hit £123m. The company intends to close 60 stores and change its fashion ranges, but faces a struggle to win back young shoppers.

House of Fraser‘s Chinese owner, Sanpower, had to stump up £25m to see the store through Christmas and its debt is rated as junk. The retailer is attempting to reduce the size of its stores by 30% and has asked landlords to cut rents.

Debenhams, a 178-store chain that is more than 200 years old, is axing one in four of its managers and considering closures to cut costs. It has warned that profits have been hit by lower than expected sales, with profit margins also down as a result of having to cut prices to match rivals.

Photograph: Tony Margiocchi / Barcroft Images/Barcroft Media Was this helpful? Thank you for your feedback.

Retailers have been hit hard by a combination of problems on top of the squeeze on spending, including higher labour costs as a result of increases in the minimum wage, the shift to online shopping and rapidly changing spending patterns.

Toys R Us and the electricals retailer Maplin collapsed in February and a number of…