Page last updated at 07:04 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 08:04 UK

Retail sales enjoy Easter boost

Shoppers
Retailers are still having to fight hard for shoppers' custom

UK retail sales enjoyed a strong rise last month, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), with the figures boosted by Easter shopping.

The total value of sales jumped 6.6% in March from a year ago, while like-for-like sales were up 4.4%.

However, the BRC said sales were not as strong when Easter trading was excluded and prospects remained "uncertain".

A separate survey found that fewer retailers fell into administration in the first three months of the year.

A survey, by financial services firm Deloitte, found 44 retailers fell into administration during the period, down 65% from a year ago and the lowest number in a three-month period since 2006.

Still cautious

The BRC's survey covered the period from 28 February to 3 April, and so included Good Friday and Easter Saturday of the Easter weekend unlike the survey for March carried out in 2009.

The inclusion of Easter meant that food and drink sales showed strong growth. However, clothing and footwear sales slowed because of the colder weather in March compared with a year ago.

The consortium said that when the impact of Easter was stripped out, like-for-like sales were up by about 2%.

"The timing of the majority of Easter spending, falling into the March 2010 period but in April last year, has boosted this month's figures and makes year-on-year comparisons difficult," said Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, which produces the figures with the BRC.

"Without this uplift a gloomier picture would have emerged - concern about the future continues to weigh on consumers' minds and the outlook for spending remains uncertain."

Slow growth

Deloitte also warned that the retail outlook was "far from plain sailing", despite the number of retail administrations in the first quarter of 2010 hitting a four-year low.

Some of the highest profile retail administrations so far this year have included childrenswear chain Adams and clothing retailer Ethel Austin.

Deloitte warned that measures by the next government to tackle the budget deficit were expected to hit consumers' disposable income in the next year, which would have a knock-on effect on retailers.

"Retail sales are likely to remain broadly flat this year and probably next, whilst costs continue to increase. Growth will be hard to come by and further retail failures seem inevitable," said Ian Geddes from Deloitte.



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