The latest BRC – KPMG Retail Sales Monitor – covering the five weeks from 26 February to 1 April – found total retail sales fell by 0.2 percent in March, compounded by flat growth in the same month last year.
This means sales figures are lower than the three-month average of 0.1 percent and the 12-month average of 0.8 percent, however the BRC said this is negatively distorted by the later timing of Easter this year.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “First impressions of March’s sales figures are underwhelming, with the first decline since August last year.
“That said, the distortion which results from the timing of Easter always makes spring a tricky period to assess and the later timing of the holiday this year certainly detracted from last month’s performance.
“Mother’s Day gift purchases provided some compensation, boosting sales of beauty and stationary items in particular.”
The report also showed that the online sales of non-food products grew by 7.4%, and the jewellery and watch industry saw an increase in like-for-like sales which were more than likely due to Mother’s Day purchases.
Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Retailers will be hoping Easter boosts retail sales in April, whether it is shoppers making the most of the holiday or those choosing to spruce up their homes.
“The new tax year marks further pressure on margins in the form of the apprenticeship levy and business rate changes, therefore tighter cost management and a focus on efficiency is more important than ever.”