UK retail sales in March hit by cold weather

The unseasonably cold weather hit demand for summer clothing. The unseasonably cold weather hit demand for summer clothing.

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UK retail sales slowed in March as the unseasonably cold weather hit demand for summer clothing, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Like-for-like sales were up 1.9% last month from a year earlier, down from February's 2.7% rise, despite the boost from an early Easter.

However, the cold weather lifted demand for food and drink.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson told the BBC that overall the results were "encouraging".

"They round off a quarter which is perhaps much better than many expected at the start of the year," she added.

For the January to March quarter, like-for-like food sales were up 2.5% compared with a year ago, while non-food sales rose 1.9%.

The BRC said these marked the highest like-for-like sales increases on a quarterly basis since December 2009.

The timing of Easter, which fell in March this year compared with April last year, flattered the figures by boosting sales of food and and homewares.

House textiles were the best-performing category, with the cold weather leading to a boom in duvet sales.

However, growth in online sales slowed, rising by 6.6% last month compared with a 13.9% increase in March 2012.

The BRC said the rise, the slowest growth in online sales since August last year, suggested shoppers were searching out items online but completing the purchases in-store,

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