Retail sales rebound in April heat and holidays

Shoppers on Regents Street under union jack bunting for the royal wedding The royal wedding and the late Easter break gave people more time and reason to splash out

Like-for-like retail sales jumped 5.2% in April thanks to the warm weather and the back-to-back long weekends.

It reversed a 3.5% fall the previous month, according to a survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Champagne and garden furniture were among the items most in demand as the nation celebrated the royal wedding during the sunniest April on record.

But the BRC warned that the underlying picture remained one of weak spending and retailers under great pressure.

Like-for-like sales exclude the effect of changes in store capacity. Including this effect, total sales rose 6.9% in April.

Barbecues

"These sales figures are a relief after the dire sales falls we saw in March, but are not the full picture," said Stephen Robertson, the industry association's director general.

"The underlying pressures on the retail sector of climbing costs and depressed consumer spending will be problems for many months to come."

As well as the extra bank holiday for the wedding, April also saw a very late Easter break, which last year fell partly in March.

But despite the bounce, the BRC said taken together with March's dismal figure, the picture remained one of near zero growth.

Clothing sales also picked up last month, as many stocked up their summer wardrobe earlier than usual, while groceries were lifted by beer, ice cream and barbecue food sales.

However, in other categories that did not benefit from the exceptionally favourable circumstances - particularly those selling big-ticket items such as indoor furniture and electrical stores - conditions remained tough.

Internet sales resumed their upward trend, rising 14% in April, nearly double the rate seen the month before.

Meanwhile, a separate survey indicated that footfall at town centres across the country rose 11% in April compared with March.

Yet despite the apparent boost from the bank holidays in the second half of the month, the number of people frequenting shops was still down 0.8% on a year earlier, according to research group Springboard.

The warm weather also saw a pick-up in house viewings, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reported.

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