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Sunny weather boosts March retail sales

Retail sales in March were boosted by the unseasonably warm weather, the British Retail Consortium has said.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Sunny weather boosts March retail sales

Like-for-like sales values were up 1.3% in March 2012 compared to the same month last year while retail sector total sales were up 3.6%, compared with a 1.9% decline in March 2011.

However, the BRC pointed out that the sales comparison was against the weakest month of last year, largely caused by the movement of Easter in the calendar.

Food sales growth was unchanged from February but non-food sales growth improved. March’s unusually warm sunny weather helped to boost sales of clothing, footwear and outdoor leisure. Indoor homewares remained down on a year ago, with larger purchases in particular hit by consumer caution.

Online sales of non-food items continued to show strong growth, with sales up 13.9% up on a year ago, the best since December 2011.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC said: "The unusually warm weather in March brought some welcome sunshine into the lives of non-food retailers."

"It's worth remembering the sales comparison is against the weakest month of last year, largely caused by the movement of Easter in the calendar, and we'll have to see whether this is additional spending or just shopping which has happened earlier than usual."

Robertson warned the overall retail environment was still difficult with discounting remaining a key tactic for retailers trying to encourage consumers to spend, particularly on big indoor items.

"The warmth of March was a help but it will take more than a week of sunshine to transform retailers' fortunes," he added.

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said it was female shoppers who were tightening their purse strings most as consumers' incomes continue to be squeezed and they looked to control the household budget. She added: "This buying behaviour saw women's clothing perform less strongly than men's and childrenswear, home accessories and textiles also had a poor month."

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