The absence of the Easter holidays left a long shadow over the UK retail industry during March.
At a time when high-spending consumers are rarer than supporters of Nick Clegg, the late date of Easter added to the woes of many traders during the month.
Dismal UK retail sales were made to look even worse on a year-on-year comparison thanks to the important run-up to the holiday coming at the end of March in 2010.
With this year’s celebrations of chocolate (and supposedly a guy called Jesus) fast approaching however, retailers can now indulge in a trading boost from one of the busiest periods on the calendar.
But who will be the biggest winners in retail this Easter?
Grocers will benefit from people making a ‘big shop’ in preparation for hosting family get-togethers and parties.
On the flip-side, smaller stores are likely to suffer as hypermarkets become more convenient than the convenience stores for consumers with plenty of time to drive out-of-town and a long shopping list of items to tick off.
Clive Black, analyst at Shore Capital, said: “April will be better for the grocers than Q1 due to the calendar impacts of Mother’s Day, Easter and the wedding holiday.
“The holidays give shoppers time to shop and lead to family and friendship gatherings that stimulate demand. With warm weather, higher margin impulse lines are consumed in greater quantities.”
Weather may play a big part for many retail sectors this weekend, with the recent sunny conditions perhaps encouraging barbeques and impromptu holidays.
Shopping search engine Twenga claims that inquiries about camping products have soared in the last month, with searches for tent accessories rising 450 per cent, ones for beach tents up 114 per cent and a 53 per cent increase for camping barbeques.
There will be plenty of consumers staying at home for the holidays and consistent sunshine should also be good for garden & DIY retailers but according to Neil Saunders, Consulting Director for Verdict Research, some might be wishing for rain.
“Winners in retail will certainly include DIY and gardening, the latter will be helped by the weather and the former by the longer holiday period which means more people will be undertaking jobs around the home,” Saunders explained.
“Food will be another winner with some good uplifts from both Easter and the royal wedding - and BBQ produce as well if the weather holds up.
“The good weather is very much a mixed blessing. It will help some sectors but could mean lower footfall on high streets if people opt to stay at home to enjoy the sunshine. Fashion could be hit by such a trend.”
With fashion retailers faring slightly better than in recent weeks than many other retailers, thanks to the launch of their fashion collections, most suffering companies should receive some relief this week if all goes to plan.
Retail analyst Jonathan Banks cautions that retailers risk getting their stock management wrong “at their peril”, and identifies soft drinks (water, fruit drinks, cola, lemonade), beer, wines & spirits (mostly lager), cold convenience, fruit, crisps and snacks, mayo, ice cream and BBQ as the key warm weather categories.
Banks said: “There are several heat sensitive categories, so the better you are at managing your supply chain (and being able to react to unexpected weather changes without putting your wastage bill through the roof) the more you can sell.
“This becomes more important as we become more time pressured and resent out-of-stocks more. Availability of ‘what I want’ is a key store choice differentiator.”
Demand is set to rise with the temperature this Easter, it will be up to individual retailers whether or not they cash in.