May 21, 2014 / 1:12 PM / 6 years ago

Retail sales rise much more than expected in April helped by Easter

LONDON (Reuters) - British retail sales rose much more strongly than expected in April helped by robust food sales during the Easter holiday, official data showed on Wednesday.

Shoppers cross Oxford Street in central London August 15, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Retail sales volumes jumped 1.3 percent on the month to show 6.9 percent growth on the year - its highest annual growth rate since May 2004.

Economists had expected retail sales to rise 0.5 percent on the month and for sales to be up 5.2 percent compared with April last year. Sales for March were also revised up significantly.

Easter this year fell in April but was in March in 2013.

Food sales jumped 3.6 percent in April from March and 6.3 percent on the year - its highest annual rise since January 2002 - due to better weather and sales promotions, as well as the later-than-usual Easter holiday, the Office for National Statistics said.

Non-food stores rose 6.5 percent year-on-year but were down 0.4 percent on the month.

Britain’s consumers have been the main driver of the country’s economic recovery which began last year. A fall in inflation and signs of higher wages have helped restore some of the spending power lost in the years after the financial crisis.

The turnaround in the housing market has also given home-owners more confidence to spend.

Previous industry surveys had already suggested sales picked up quickly in April due to the Easter break as well as Mother’s Day.

(Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and William Schomberg), Tel: +44 20 7542 5109

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