BRC-KPMG: March retail sales down 1.7%

Retail sales fell 1.7% year-on-year on a like-for-like basis in March, according to figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG in their latest retail sales monitor.

In March 2013, sales had increased 1.9% on the preceding year. BRC-KPMG said the figures were distorted by unfavourable comparisons due to the late timing of Easter this year. On a total basis, sales slipped 0.3%. The 3-month average total growth was 2.1%, just below the 12-month trend of 2.4%. BRC-KPMG said a clearer underlying picture should appear in April, when the Easter distortion is reversed.

Sales in the food and home categories showed a decline and were most affected by the Easter distortion. Online sales of non-food products grew by 12.8% in March compared with a year earlier.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “These sales figures are stronger than might have been expected given the fact that Easter has fallen so late. Unsurprisingly compared to last year, categories that perform strongly over the extended Easter break have seen lower sales. Household accessories and furniture are often key purchases over the holiday, and have seen a decline. With the later school holidays. Retailers will be looking forward to April’s results to see how this balances out over the period.”

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: “On face value, retail sales in March appear flat but in fact the figures are distorted by the timing of Easter, which fell in March last year boosting sales and making direct comparisons difficult.

“Putting Easter distortions aside, the overall picture looks encouraging. The long term trend shows that sales are moving in a positive direction, albeit it at a rate of 2.1% which is just above inflation. Looking ahead, the Easter effect and the school holidays should deliver a healthy boost to sales in April. If the weather is fine, shoppers will head to the high street to enjoy the bank holiday break, helping sales of spring ranges, home accessories and children’s clothing.”

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