Non-food boosts retail sector after unseasonably warm March
British retailers have benefited from March's warm weather which led to a jump in non-food retail sales, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Shopping: non-food sales boost the high street
Total retail sales were up 3.6% last month (March) compared to March 2011, driven by growth in non-food items including clothing, footwear and outdoor leisure products.
Between March 2011 and March 2010 total retail sales were down 1.9%.
Stephen Robertson, director general at the BRC, said: "The early signs of summer got people buying clothes and shoes for the new season. Gardening items and outdoor leisure also saw a lift.
"It's worth remembering the sales comparison is against the weakest month of last year, largely caused by the movement of Easter in the calendar, and we’ll have to see whether this is additional spending or just shopping which has happened earlier than usual.
"Food sales growth continues to be largely underpinned by food inflation rather than by customers buying more.
"The overall retail environment is still difficult. Discounting remains a key tactic for retailers trying to encourage consumers to spend, particularly on big indoor items."
The publication of the BRC figures comes amid an increasingly hostile environment with figures from Deloitte showing the number of retailers falling into administration in the first quarter of this year increased by 15% to 69, compared with 60 in the same period last year.
Sales of non-food items through online, mail-order and phone channels showed strong growth, but against a very weak March 2011 with sales up 13.9% up on a year ago, the best increase since December 2011.
Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: "The clothing sector as a whole and non-food generally benefited from the warm March weather.
But, as consumers' incomes continue to be squeezed, it’s female shoppers who are tightening their purse strings most severely, focusing more on lower price point items to control the household budget.
"This buying behaviour saw women's clothing perform less strongly than men’s and childrenswear. Home accessories and textiles also had a poor month.
"Increases in food prices rather than volumes was one of the factors behind the uplift in this month’s figures."
Follow Matthew Chapman at @mattchapmanUK
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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