Retail sales increase in March despite ‘Beast from the East’
UK retail sales rose by 1.4% on a like-for-like basis in March despite a degree of volatility caused by the weather.
The figures from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG in their monthly sales monitor also show that total sales rose by 2.3%.
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “March paints a volatile picture for sales, which experienced peaks and troughs to deliver some modest growth on last year. The positive distortion from the timing of Easter pushed sales up by over 15% during the holiday week compared with the rest of the month, only just making up for a sub-zero performance at the start of the month.”
Over the three months to March, food sales climbed by 4.2% on a like-for-like basis and by 5.3% on a total basis.
Meanwhile, non-food retail sales in the UK decreased 1.8% on a like-for-like basis and by 1% on a total basis.
During the same three-month period, in-store sales of non-food items declined by 3% on a total basis and 4% on a like-for-like basis.
Dickinson said the month’s snow and the ‘Beast from the East’ storm played a significant part in deterring shoppers from making store visits but did not impact food purchases so much, which saw an anticipated spike over Easter.
She added: “This was in stark contrast to non-food sales which, despite some promotional driven activity, bore the brunt of consumers’ disinterest in typical springtime purchases, as well as the ongoing spending squeeze on non-essentials.”
Online sales of non-food items grew by 7.9% in the month while the online penetration rate stood at 22%.
Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Retailers with an online presence were far more fortunate, with a marked lift in all categories. The cold weather clearly persuaded shoppers to peruse from the comfort of their own homes, with beauty and clothing grabbing the most attention.”
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