Early Easter boosts retail sales


British retail spending rose at its fastest annual rate in almost a year last month, helped by Easter falling a month earlier than in 2014.

The early Easter boosted the supermarket sector as increasing sales see the sector ready for a “slow but steady fight back”, according to official figures.

Data released today from the British Retail Consortium has said that the value of total retail sales in March was 4.7% up on a year earlier, the biggest year-on-year rise since April 2014, and much stronger than the 1.7% growth recorded in February. Total food sales were up 1.8%, the fastest growth for total food sales since July 2013.

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail at KPMG, said that although encouragement can be taken from the growing sales, the supermarket price wars will continue to have a negative impact on the sector.

“An early Easter and better economic news helped lift retail sales out of the doldrums in March and the sector posted the strongest sales growth seen in nearly a year,” said McCorquodale.

He added: “Signs of recovery were also seen in the grocers’ figures, who are mounting a slow but steady fight back. However price deflation continues to dog the sector, and while supermarkets may be selling more, they are peddling hard to stand still. Demand is definitely pushing in the right direction, but there is a long way to go before like for like food sales are back in positive territory.”

Helen Dickinson, Director General at BRC continued: “All-in-all, retailers can also be satisfied with the consumer response to their Mother’s Day and Easter offerings, but it is important to note that April figures will be impacted by the absence of Easter this year.”

The rise in consumer spending comes at the same time as prices measured in-store by the BRC are falling at their fastest rate since 2006.