Retail sales edge down 0.5% in March
The decline compares to a 2.5% rise in February when growth was driven by an increase in spending on non-food items such as computers and technology products. Sales volumes fell 0.7% in March when compared to the previous month.
The figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that the non-food sector made the largest contribution to last month’s decline with sales volumes falling by 2.6%.
In a statement, the ONS said: "March 2013 was the second coldest on record and this appears to have had a negative effect on sales in the non-food sector. Feedback from department stores, clothing stores and household goods stores suggested that sales were dampened by the weather as they prepared their stores for the spring season."
Retail sales values increased by 0.1% year on year in March with the largest contributions coming from the food and non-store retailing sectors.
Online sales accounted for 10.4% of all spending, compared with 8.8% a year earlier, as consumers shopped from the comfort of their own homes in the cold weather instead of venturing out to stores.
Commenting on the figures, David McCorquodale, UK head of retail at KPMG said: "The cold weather certainly left its icy mark on March’s sales. Clothing retailers had prepared for the change in season and filled their shops with spring and summer collections only to be faced with biting winds and snow flurries, which froze sales of summer stock, making seasonal items such as shorts and sunglasses hard products to shift.
"It is no surprise therefore that the fashion and footwear retailers have suffered this set-back, perhaps alleviated by an increase in online shopping as consumers try to find something warm online, which is no longer available on the High Street.
"The weather will have deprived clothing retailers of the bumper Easter that they will have hoped for. They will hope the sun comes out in the second quarter and warms up sales of summer stock. We might see an uplift next quarter because sales will be against the soft comparables of last year, when the wet weather washed away sales in the second quarter."
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