Easter retail sales did not “measure up” to expectations, with overall UK retail sales increasing by 1.4% in March from last year, according to KPMG.
New figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) show, on a total basis, sales rose 2.3% in March, against a decline of 0.2% in March 2017. This is above the three-month and 12-month averages of 1.8% and 1.9% respectively, but is was positively distorted by the timing of Easter.
“Great hopes were placed on Easter trading, but whilst the latest figures point to overall improvement when compared to recent months, the Easter boost didn’t quite measure up to previous years,” said Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG.
Over the three-months to March, non-food retail sales in the UK decreased 1.8% on a like-for-like basis and 1.0% on a total basis. This is below the 12-month total average decrease of 0.0%.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium said: “March paints a volatile picture for sales, which experienced peaks and troughs to deliver some modest growth on last year.
“The positive distortion from the timing of Easter pushed sales up by over 15% during the holiday week compared with the rest of the month, only just making up for a sub-zero performance at the start of the month.
“There’s no doubt that the ‘Beast from the East’ and its successor played a significant role in deterring shoppers from making store visits. But it didn’t dampen consumers’ appetites towards food purchases, which saw the anticipated spike from the Easter festivities.
“This was in stark contrast to non-food sales which, despite some promotional- driven activity, bore the brunt of consumers’ disinterest in typical springtime purchases, as well as the ongoing spending squeeze on non- essentials.”