Retail sales fall but stay above end of 2012 dip

Ben Southwood
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RETAIL sales slipped in March, official figures showed yesterday, putting them down on the year, but up compared to the gloomy final quarter of 2012.

The quantity bought in the sector dipped 0.7 per cent between January and March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, making it 0.5 per cent lower than in the same period of 2012.

But the first quarter average for 2013 was slightly – 0.4 per cent – above the fourth quarter of 2012.

According to the ONS, large retailers and department stores blamed the gloomy weather – central England had the coldest March since 1892 – for the weak outturn, which was particularly harsh in the non-food sector where sales were 2.6 per cent lower than in March 2012.

Online sales grew six per cent in just a month.

Although most analysts have said that a swathe of encouraging data releases for the dominant service sector of the economy put paid to the threat of overall GDP decline in the first quarter of 2013 – which would mark a triple-dip recession – Tobias Blattner and Emily Nicol at Daiwa disagreed.

“We still think there is a significant likelihood that when the first estimate of first quarter GDP is released on Thursday next week, it may well indicate a triple-dip recession,” the duo warned.

But British Retail Consortium director Helen Dickinson said the eventual onset of spring could bring a shopping surge.

“The late arrival of more spring-like weather should help to make shopping trips more appealing to customers,” Dickinson said yesterday.