Good Friday this year fell on 30th March - 2 weeks earlier than in 2017, when it landed on 14th April. During the build up to the recent Easter, the cold spell dubbed the "Beast from the East", chilled sales as well as temperatures. The w/c 25th February, in particular, was significantly down on last year, at -25% in value for technology and -15% for DIY. As the UK was blanketed in snow, consumers stayed home where keeping warm and tobogganing were higher up their list of priorities than struggling with adverse travel conditions for non-essential shopping. Even internet sales were negatively affected in this week, pointing to more influences at work than just the stay-at-home approach. This left demand in the market, and stock in retail, creating the right conditions for additional Easter promotional events, and these, of course, coinciding nicely with pay day. When Easter finally arrived, the weather continued as it had been throughout much of March: unseasonably cold and some parts of the country saw another dusting of snow.
Looking at the GfK Weekly Point of Sales data for Easter week (W13 - 25th - 31st March 2018) and comparing it to last Easter (W15 - 9th - 15th April 2017), tech sales rose by 22% in value. Online led the charge with 35% growth, but traditional store sales also grew at 16%... and it's not often that we can say that, these days! Gains were made across most categories too. Picking out a few highlights: in Consumer Electronics, games consoles grew +43%, sound bars +23% and TVs +19%. In IT, monitors were up 56%, mobile computing +28% and desktops +17%. Moving to Home Appliances, tumble dryers soared at +54%, while washing machines were up 16%. Hairdryers also came in at +54% and hot beverage makers +33%.
The DIY story is unfortunately different, with Easter week sales finishing 3% lower than Easter 2017. However, Easter weekend is one of the busiest times for this market, and, even with the decline compared to last year, it was still a high value week with sales up 17% compared to the previous 7 days. Online supported sales too, with 11% growth compared to Easter 2017, but it was not enough to bring the overall market into positive territory. The cold weather during Easter week, as well as in the run up to the holiday, meant there was less appetite for the usual home projects. Unsurprisingly, there were few signs of outside work, with gardening, masonry paint and wood care all down in excess of 50%. Internal projects fared better, with both white and coloured emulsion sales growing year on year. In line with the decorating theme, products such as lighting, blinds, curtains and housewares performed well. And, thanks to the cold weather, heating and insulation products had a bumper sales period, up 21% and 30% respectively, year on year.
There was much talk in the media around Easter of heavy discounting and deep price cuts - it was even referred to by some commentators as another Black Friday. However, price cuts haven't translated when you review what was actually purchased. For technology, whilst sales value increased by 22%, volume was up only 13%. In 2018, overall average selling prices (ASPs) in Easter week were, in fact, higher than in any of the 5 weeks directly preceding. This is the opposite to 2017, when ASP in the Easter week was slightly lower than any of the 5 previous weeks. To contextualise this, the sold price across Consumer Electronics for Easter 2018 was £90, compared with £87 the week before. IT measured £115, compared to £106. Appliances saw a slight dip from £225 to £221. It wasn't all heavily discounted products selling.
In DIY, whilst the market was at -3% in value, volume was -9%, so, again, discounts and offers haven't come through as a significant factor in the overall shape of sales. White emulsion sold prices were 4% higher than last Easter, and coloured emulsion was 6% higher. Blinds and curtains were also 4% higher.
In summary, Easter 2018 has been a strong trading week for Technology, whilst the DIY sector has had a difficult time, not helped by the early calendar cycle for Easter and the cold weather. Consumers have spent their money on indoor items, whether it be decorating a room or a new TV. Yes, there were promotions in place and, no doubt, some pent-up demand from the weeks preceding Easter. These offers may have attracted consumers' attention, but, in reality, retail has done a decent job of up-selling and adding value beyond volume.
For more details on GfK Products, Solutions and Insight please get in touch: Michael.McLaughlin(at)gfk.com
Data from GfK POS Weekly Leader Panel and DIY TSR Report: 2017: Easter Week (Week 15) Sunday 9th April - Saturday 15th April. 2018: Easter Week (Week 13) Sunday 25th March - Saturday 31st March