Late Easter and warm weather boost high street sales
This year sales were helped by the fact that all of Easter fell into the trading period compared with only Easter Sunday and Monday in 2010. On a total basis sales were up by 6.9% compared to a 0.2% decrease in April 2010.
Food sales returned to growth, and sales of clothing and footwear increased due to the early arrival of the warm weather when consumers brought forward their purchase of summer clothes. Sales of DIY and leisure products also grew but sales of big-ticket items such as white goods and furniture suffered due to continuing lack of consumer confidence.
Despite the good news, the BRC said that overall trend was still flat as the dire figures seen in March largely cancelled out the April figures. It said that the underlying pressures experienced by retailers due to increased costs and depressed consumer spending would continue to bring problems in the months ahead.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: The Bank's decision to maintain the freeze on interest rates was the right one and it's important we see the economy performing much more strongly before there is any change in future."
Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG, said: "As expected, the combination of a late Easter, dry and sunny weather, and the Royal Wedding feel good factor, has provided a very welcome respite in a challenging retail trading environment.”
She continued:”The question now is whether this is indicative of a corner having been turned from the longer term downward trend in demand. Given the three-month average is still heading in a downward direction with 1.8% total and 0.1% sales growth for February to April compared to 2.7% total and 0.8% for the 3 months to January, this is unlikely to be case. Hence, the majority of retailers remain cautious about the outlook for the remainder of the year."
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