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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
High Street trend remains gloomy
Shopping mall
The monthly rise could be down to seasonal factors
UK High Street retail sales are still in the doldrums with the latest figures showing year-on-year growth slipping to its weakest in two years.

Though monthly retail sales showed a surprise 0.5% rise in April, on a yearly basis sales slipped to 2.3% from 2.4% in the previous month.

The yearly rise was the lowest since April 2003, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

On a quarterly basis, sales grew 0.2%, the same as in the previous quarter.

High Street blues

The monthly upturn in April contrasts with a slew of reports from High Street names, all reporting difficult trading conditions.

On Thursday, health and beauty retailer Boots posted an 11% fall in annual profits following its profits warning in March.

For those retailers who thought 2004 was really tough, the message now is: hold on to your hats
BBC business editor Jeff Randall

Clothing retailer Next warned this week that the decline in underlying sales had accelerated.

The fact that Easter came early this year might have influenced the figures, the ONS said.

Still weak

The figures contrast with weak surveys from the CBI and the British Retail Consortium earlier this month.

"I don't think the figures are quite as strong as the headline number suggests they might be," said George Buckley, economist at Deutsche Bank.

"Non-food sales have been flat for a considerable amount of time now. If you strip out food, you are seeing significant weakness."

Retailers of household goods only managed to lift volumes by 0.3% despite heavy discounting.

"Overall, the consumer is not in recession, as some surveys suggest, but the slowdown seems entrenched," said John Bulter, economist at HSBC.

The latest figures are unlikely to have any impact on base rates, analysts say.

April slowdown hits retail sales
10 May 05 |  Business
Retail sales stagnate in February
08 Mar 05 |  Business
UK retail sales edge up slightly
01 Mar 05 |  Business
Sales 'spur shop price deflation'
10 Feb 05 |  Business
Sales 'fail to boost High Street'
08 Feb 05 |  Business
Christmas sales worst since 1981
21 Jan 05 |  Business
Festive sales 'worst in 10 years'
11 Jan 05 |  Business

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