Warmer April boosted high street’s sales

Julian Harris
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HIGH street sales shot up in April according to official figures released yesterday, with the royal wedding and unusually warm weather cited as possible reasons for the upturn.

The volume of sales, excluding petrol, was up 1.2 per cent on the previous month, and 2.7 per cent higher than at the same time last year.

“The pound shot up almost half a cent against both the euro and dollar this morning, as April’s retail figures swept the markets off their feet,” said senior dealer Glenn Uniacke at Moneycorp.

While the Office for National Statistics warned of one-off effects boosting the figures, the upward revision of March’s sales growth (to 0.4 per cent) showed some sign of underlying optimism for Britain’s shops.

However, the underlying trend appears flat, with the high street needing a strong summer to push on. The volume of sales, excluding petrol, was stagnant in the three months to April, compared to the previous three months.

“While April’s sales data look good at face value, it is likely to be a blip in an otherwise miserable trend,” said economist Ken Wattrett of BNP Paribas.

Some analysts attributed April’s spike to booming food and clothing sales. While the ONS adjusts the data to recurring seasonal effects such as Easter holidays, no adjustment is made for one-off distortions such as the Royal Wedding.

Stores that mainly sell food saw sales jump 2.2 per cent compared to March, the highest jump since May 2008.

Non-food stores showed more modest growth, at 0.4 per cent, although clothing and footwear were up 3.2 per cent – the joint sharpest monthly spike since August 2008.