Early Easter hits April retail sales

Kasmira Jefford
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RETAIL spending growth dropped in April, after an earlier Easter pulled sales forward into March, according to industry data out today.

KPMG and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said like-for-like sales decreased by 2.4 per cent compared with April last year, when they had increased 4.2 per cent.

Total retail sales fell 1.3 per cent against a 5.7 per cent rise last year.

KPMG’s head of retail David McCorquodale, however, said the figures were distorted by the early timing of Easter and masked evidence of an underlying improvement in spending.

“Taking the three months to April to eliminate seasonality, this is a bit of an April fool, as retail sales have continued their steady rise through the year and increased by 1.9 per cent,” he said.

Total non-food sales increased by 3.2 per cent in the three-month period, thanks to the warmer weather lifting demand for clothing. Food sales grew 0.4 per cent, ahead of their 0.6 per cent decline in the past 12 months.

“Undoubtedly, grocery remains a tough environment due to price deflation and increased competition. But even that market is working its way out of the trough we saw last year,” McCorquodale told City A.M.

He added that while the outcome of the General Election was unlikely to lead to a spending spree by consumers this month, retailers were likely to welcome the stability of a Conservative majority government

“We have a government that has promised not to increase VAT and to review of business rates,” he said.

Meanwhile, data from the UK Cards Association also points to increasing consumer confidence, after Britons spent £35.2bn on their debit cards in February, up 7.7 per cent on the same month the previous year.