Easter holidays give UK retailers a much-needed sales boost

 
Helen Cahill
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Food retail has been performing better than non-food retail (Source: Getty)

Easter gave UK retail a much-needed boost last month, with the late timing of the holiday helping to push up sales.

Sales grew 5.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis in April as compared to the same month a year before, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Read more: High street sales sluggish in April as consumers prefer spending in pubs

However, there were clear winners and losers from the Easter spending splurge. In the three months to April, food sales increased 2.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis, but non-food sales grew by just 0.3 per cent.

The limp performance from non-food retail comes despite falling prices on many categories in the sector. Separate BRC data for April showed clothing and furniture prices fell by 5.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.

Sales on the high street also failed to sparkle over the holiday period. According to recent figures from accountancy firm BDO, high street sales increased by just 1.9 per cent year-on-year in April, and this rise was from a low baseline; in the same month a year ago, sales fell by 6.1 per cent.

Read more: Trouble in store: More pain on the way for UK retail

The BRC's figures reflected these difficulties for the high street. Over the three months to April, store sales of non-food items fell by 1.3 per cent. Meanwhile, online sales jumped 8.2 per cent.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: "The positive distortion from the timing of Easter was largely responsible for the month's growth and looking to the longer-term signs of a slowdown, the outlook isn't as rosy.

"Taking a closer look at the sales figures, consumer spend on food and non-food items is diverging. Food categories continue to contribute the most weight to overall growth, although food inflation has a part to play in this. Meanwhile, consumers are being more cautious in their spending towards non-food products and focusing more on value priced lines."

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