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March retail sales down 1.7%

Retail sales fell 1.7% year-on-year on a like-for-like basis in March as figures were distorted by unfavourable comparisons due to the late timing of Easter this year. On a total basis, sales edged down 0.3%.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

March retail sales down 1.7%

Figures released by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG in their retail sales monitor reveal that sales in the food and home categories showed a decline and were most affected by the Easter distortion. Meanwhile, fashion sales showed record growth fuelled by strong demand for women’s clothing and footwear, although the figures were flattered by a low comparable period last year.

Online sales of non-food products grew by 12.8% in March compared to a year earlier.

The BRC said the three-month average total growth was 2.1%, just below the 12-month trend of 2.4%, and that a clearer underlying picture should emerge in April when the Easter distortion is reversed.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: "These sales figures are stronger than might have been expected given the fact that Easter has fallen so late this year.

"Fashion has performed particularly well. Retailers have worked hard to create popular new collections, and have been rewarded with strong demand for women's clothing and footwear in particular. This improves on the slow start to the season last year when shoppers were more reluctant to spruce up their wardrobes.

"Unsurprisingly compared to last year, categories that perform strongly over the extended Easter break have seen lower sales. Household accessories and furniture are often key purchases over the holiday, and have seen a decline. With the later school holidays, the same has been the case for children's clothing. Retailers will be looking forward to April's results to see how this balances out over the period."

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