LONDON, United Kingdom — British shoppers held off from buying new spring and summer clothes during an unusually cold April, compounding a sense of uncertainty among consumers ahead of June's EU referendum, surveys suggested on Tuesday.
Retail spending was flat compared with last year for a second consecutive month during April, marked by weak demand for fashion and footwear, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.
Next, one of Britain's biggest clothing retailers, last week warned sales could fall this year because of a cool spring and a consumer slowdown, while the Confederation of British Industry also blamed the weather for the biggest fall in retail sales in four years last month.
"Flat total sales mask a very mixed picture: some retailers benefiting from the healthy housing market, while other are evidently more susceptible to the effects of lower consumer confidence," BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
Consumer morale slipped last month to its lowest level since December 2014 as uncertainty about the outcome of the June 23 referendum on Brexit gnawed at consumers, according to market research company GfK.
On a like-for-like basis, stripping out changes in the amount of retail space open to shoppers over the past 12 months, the BRC said sales fell by 0.9 percent in April, their worst performance since August of last year.
The BRC figures are not seasonally adjusted, leaving them vulnerable to changes in the timing of Easter.
Separate spending data from Barclaycard, the card payment processing arm of Barclays, showed clothing sales fell at the fastest annual pace in three years and spending on essentials dropped by the most since the survey started in 2011.
Overall consumer spending rose 1.9 percent last month, Barclaycard said. While an improvement on the 1.6 percent growth in March, that was well below the survey's 12-month rolling average of 3.7 percent growth.
"The feel-good factor (consumers) enjoyed in 2015 ... has been hit by a combination of uncertainty on everything from oil prices to the EU referendum," Barclaycard managing director Paul Lockstone said.
The Bank of England — which sets out its latest economic outlook on Thursday — last month said it would be less sensitive than usual to changes in economic data around the time of the Brexit vote, which opinion poll suggest will be close-run.
By Andy Bruce; editor: David Milliken.