The easter bunny failed to help retail sales, which unexpectedly fell last month as motorists stayed away from petrol pumps, adding to the mixed picture currently being painted for the economy.
Retail sales fell 0.5 per cent in March from a month earlier, as petrol stations said sales slipped 6.2 per cent, according to data released today by the Office for National Statistics.
The figures took City economists by surprise – many had expected a rise of 0.4 per cent.
"It had seemed likely that Easter being right at the start of April would lift sales in March," Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS, said.
However, economists are now looking to the release of first quarter GDP next Tuesday, with many forecasting growth to have slowed slightly from the previous quarter.
"Concern that gross domestic product growth could have slowed appreciably in the first quarter of 2015 has been fuelled by disappointing industrial production … construction output data for February as well as weaker trade data," Archer said.