Published on 13 - April - 2010
Easter boosts sales on the high streetTotal sales up 6.6% in March, with homewares driven by mid-season sales but BRC warns of consumer caution and a 'gloomier picture'.
The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor reported a 4.4% like-for-like rise in UK retail sales values from March 2009. On a total basis, sales rose 6.6% for the month, compared with a growth of just 0.6% in March 2009. However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) explains that the year-on-year comparison was boosted by Good Friday and Easter Saturday falling in the March trading period.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "These are strong figures - the best total sales growth since April 2006, but they would have been only half as good without the distorting effect of Easter."
While food sales saw a surge thanks to Easter purchasing, for non-food, consumer caution remained, with sales up 1.8% on a like-for-like basis. In the face of economic and political uncertainty, shoppers favoured essentials and replacements over discretionary items. However, homewares saw an improvement, helped by mid-season sales and promotions.
The BDO High Street Sales Tracker yesterday reported a 9.1% increase in sales of homewares in March, with textiles and furniture performing especially well.
KPMG head of retail Helen Dickinson commented: "The timing of the majority of Easter spending, falling into the March 2010 period but in April last year, has boosted this month's figures and makes year-on-year comparisons difficult. Without this uplift, a gloomier picture would have emerged - concern about the future continues to weigh on consumers' minds and the outlook for spending remains uncertain.
"Retailers are fighting hard to encourage shoppers and offer value, which has slowed the rise in shop prices over the month, but how long they will be able to sustain this, given the pressure on margins, is debatable."
Non-food non-store sales, including the internet and mail order, were up 15.9% on March 2009, although the BRC explained that sales were mixed and often promotion driven. February saw a 15.5% sales increase on the previous year.
Mr Robertson said: "This is good growth - the best since December and like store sales of non-food goods, online sales growth is improving. Online sales growth is well up on last March, though often discount and promotion driven. While customers are still nervous, they're more willing to spend than a year ago when we were still mired in recession."
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