Retailers dodge April showers as sales pick up

Easter and the Royal Wedding bank holiday provided a boost to many retailers in April after the difficulties encountered during March, the latest BRC-KPMG retail sales index reveals.

UK retail sales values rose 5.2% on a like-for-like basis from April 2010, when sales had fallen 2.3% as only Easter Sunday and Monday fell into the April trading period. This year all of Easter was in April’s trading period.

On a total basis, sales were up 6.9%, against a 0.2% decrease in April 2010.

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As people partied and spent time outdoors during the holiday period, retailers selling outdoor DIY and leisure items, clothing and food prospered the most. Indoor products suffered, however, with big-ticket items hardest hit.

Non-food non-store (internet, mail-order and phone) sales growth picked up in April. Sales were 13.7% higher than a year ago, recovering from the exceptionally small 7.5% gain in March.

Taking the two months together, underlying growth was little changed from earlier this year.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, called the figures “a relief” after the dire sales recorded in March, but warned retailers that the market is not out of the woods yet.

“The underlying pressures on the retail sector of climbing costs and depressed consumer spending will be problems for many months to come,” he 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.”

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