Cold weather slows UK retail sales growth in March - BRC

LONDON Tue Apr 9, 2013 12:18am BST

1 of 5. People carry shopping bags down a snow covered street in Llangollen, north Wales, March 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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LONDON (Reuters) - Growth in British retail sales slowed last month despite a boost from an early Easter, as unseasonably cold weather hurt demand for summer clothes and shoes, industry data showed on Tuesday.

The British Retail Consortium said retail sales values rose 1.9 percent from a year earlier on a like-for-like measure, which strips out changes in stores' floor space and is favoured by equity analysts. That compared with a 2.7 percent increase in February.

The total value of sales grew by 3.7 percent in March, down from 4.4 percent in February.

Easter fell at the end of March this year but in April last year, flattering the year-on-year comparison in sales, especially of food and homewares. But poor weather had the opposite effect on shoppers.

"Food was boosted by a continued appetite for hearty meals and 'wintry' fare such as roasts and chocolate. But demand was cool for new-season clothing and footwear lines, resulting in a decline for both categories," said BRC Director General Helen Dickinson.

But she added: "Even if we strip out the data for the last week of March, performances are encouraging, considering the weather impact."

Robust average sales growth in the first three months of 2013 provided a further reason for optimism, with sales rising at the strongest annual pace since the last quarter of 2009 on a like-for-like basis.

The BRC data adds to hopes that Britain's economy eked out growth in the first quarter, avoiding a third recession in less than five years, after a survey of purchasing managers showed that the dominant services sector expanded in early 2013.

(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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