Retail sales in the UK rebounded in March as unusually warm weather encouraged spending on clothing, footwear and outdoor leisure, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said Wednesday.
Retail sales rose 1.3 percent on a like-for-like basis from March 2011. This followed a 0.3 percent decline in February and was better than economists' forecast for no growth. On a total basis, sales were up 3.6 percent against a 1.9 percent decline last year.
Food sales growth was steady compared to the previous month but non-food sales growth improved. March's sunny weather boosted sales in clothing and footwear and also encouraged outdoor leisure, BRC said.
However, larger purchases continued to be affected by consumer caution. Meanwhile, online sales of non-food items grew 13.9 percent annually, marking the best result since December 2011.
The sales comparison is against the weakest month of last year, largely caused by the movement of Easter in the calendar, BRC noted.
The unusually warm weather in March brought some welcome sunshine into the lives of non-food retailers, BRC Director-General Stephen Robertson said. "The early signs of summer got people buying clothes and shoes for the new season."
Robertson noted that growth in food sales continues to be largely underpinned by food inflation rather than by customers buying more. He said that discounting remained a key tactic for retailers to woo consumers who are still struggling to balance household budgets against expensive fuel and utilities.
High unemployment, muted wage growth, inflation as well as tight austerity may continue to weigh on consumers' confidence in the coming months. The economy contracted 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter. Despite the overall weakness, the economy is expected to avoid a technical recession.
Meanwhile, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG report on jobs, published today, revealed that permanent staff placements increased for a third month in a row in March, but at a slower pace compared to the previous month.
"This is good news for job-seekers and a positive indication of increasing employer confidence," Tom Hadley, REC Director of Policy and Professional Services, said.
Overall demand for staff strengthened in March, but candidate availability rose at a weaker pace, according to the report.
by RTT Staff Writer
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