March retail sales fall through the floor

The value of UK retail sales in March saw the worst drop for at least 16 years.

March retail sales fall through the floor

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor figures, sales were down 1.9% on a total basis from March 2010, when they had risen 6.6%, boosted by Good Friday and Easter Saturday falling in the March trading period.

On a like-for-like basis, sales were 3.5% lower, against a 4.4% increase in March 2010.

Like-for-like food sales fell well below their year-earlier level while non-food sales showed an even larger decline, with consumer uncertainty about jobs and incomes, as well as the later Easter, hitting both, according to BRC-KPMG. Big-ticket home and furniture purchases, often promotion-led, suffered most.

The figures also show that non-food non-store – that is, internet, mail order and phone – sales growth fell further in March. Sales were 7.5% higher than a year ago, the smallest increase since the series began in October 2008 and much weaker than the 10.4% in February.

“This is the worst drop in total sales since we first collected these figures in 1995,” commented BRC director general Stephen Robertson. “Non-food retailers were particularly hard-hit. This is strong evidence of the pressure customers and traders are under. This year’s later Easter is a factor but this fall goes way beyond anything that can be explained by that alone.”

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