The late fall of Easter has skewed retail sales figures from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG for March.
Like-for-like UK retail sales were down 1.7 per cent against a 1.9 per cent rise in March 2013.
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said the overall picture looked encouraging. “The long term trend shows that sales are moving in a positive direction, albeit it at a rate of 2.1 per cent which is just above inflation,” he said.
“Looking ahead, the Easter effect and the school holidays should deliver a healthy boost to sales in April. If the weather is fine, shoppers will head to the high street to enjoy the bank holiday break, helping sales of spring ranges, home accessories and children’s clothing.”
Easter Sunday, which generally falls between 22 March and 25 April, will come right at the end of the period this year on 20 April. This means that sales made in the lucrative Easter window will not be counted until next month’s monitor.
Fashion showed strong growth in March, with milder weather tempting shoppers to spend on new spring ranges. This was in contrast to the same time last year where colder temperatures led to its worst performance of the year. Home and food fell as the top four grocers embarked on a multi-billion price war that could see declining food costs for some time to come.
Research from business recovery company Begbies Traynor suggested that the UK’s smallest independent food retailers are the biggest casualties of the price war. Levels of ‘significant’ financial distress among UK food retailers rose by over 14 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2013, as 2,823 UK food retailers, 95 percent of which are small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), struggle to survive.
The BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor measures changes in the value (inc VAT) of retail sales from a sample of UK retailers that represent 80 per cent of turnover in the industry.
Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers have worked hard to create popular new collections, and have been rewarded with strong demand for women’s clothing and footwear in particular. This improves on the slow start to the season last year when shoppers were more reluctant to spruce up their wardrobes.”