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    Unusually early Easter boosted sales

    (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    An early Easter boosted consumer spending in March, thereby giving retailers their best month in more than two years, show latest data released today (9).

    According to monthly sales monitor from the British Retail Consortium and the accountancy firm KPMG, total retail sales increased by 3.5 per cent year on year in March while food sales increased 6.8 per cent year on year over the three months to March.

    Commenting on food and drink sector performance, Sarah Bradbury, CEO, IGD, said, “The UK grocery market benefitted from Easter falling in March this year. This has led to very positive comparisons with spending increasing on March 2023, and importantly significant volume growth. This marks the fourth consecutive month of year-on-year volume growth, offering hope to retailers and suppliers of finally being able to regrow margins that have shrunk during the cost-of-living crisis.

    “Shoppers faced a multitude of financial changes this month from the anticipation of ‘price hike Monday’ to the budget announcement that cut National Insurance for the second time in six months. At a total level, shoppers have a growing confidence in their financial outlook, however the strength of this growth varies by household income.

    “For lower income households, confidence is growing at a slower rate despite news of an almost 10 per cent increase to the national living wage. For all shoppers, we expect the cautious approach to continue as cost-of-living challenges remain.”

    Commenting on the data, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said, “While retail sales growth improved last month, this was largely driven by Easter falling unusually early and the subsequent uplift to food sales in the week preceding the long weekend. Easter also boosted sales of non-food products such as cookware and tableware, as people readied themselves to host family and friends. Home textiles such as throws and pillows were also popular as consumers sought to spruce up their homes ahead of Spring. Elsewhere, wet weather dampened sales of garden furniture, BBQs, DIY products, and clothing and footwear.

    “After a difficult start to the year, retailers are hopeful that with warmer weather around the corner, consumer confidence will spring back up. A strong retail industry can boost investment across our towns and cities, and as we gear up for a general election, it is essential the next government recognises this and rethinks the burdensome costs imposed on retailers.

    “With a pro-growth policy landscape, retailers can step up their investment in innovation and in local jobs and communities up and down the country.”

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