Internet sales prop up March spending stats

Marion Dakers
BRITISH shoppers are still reluctant to splash out on high street goods, but online purchases are propping up overall consumer spending, according to figures out today.

Like-for-like sales made in stores fell 0.9 per cent in March compared to a year ago, BDO’s sales tracker shows.

While Mother’s Day and Easter boosted non-fashion sales, up 7.3 per cent on last year, clothing outlets suffered. Like-for-likes fell 3.4 per cent as the changeable weather discouraged Brits from updating their wardrobes.

“Retailers fear shoppers will now hold out for summer lines, forcing them to clear spring stock by discounting, hitting even those stores that have continued to maintain tight stock levels,” said BDO.

But there are some signs of hope for retailers. BDO’s four-month moving average remains in positive territory, and sales made away from stores rose a whopping 28.4 per cent on last year. The pace of non-store growth, fuelled by online sales, was 2.8 percentage points higher than March 2012. BDO said the surge is partly due to the cold weather sending shoppers to their computers instead of the high street.

Internet purchases were also a driving force behind a 1.3 per cent month-on-month and 1.2 per cent year-on-year uptick in UK consumer spending, the third successive month of growth, according to figures based on Visa card holders’ transactions.

“Although spring may not have sprung just yet, there are signs that the longed-for thaw in consumer spending may be upon us,” said Visa Europe commercial director Steve Perry in a statement.