UK retail sales were down 1.7% on a like-for-like basis from March 2013, when they had increased 1.9% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were down 0.3%, against a 3.7% increase in March 2013.
The Food and Home categories, the most affected by the Easter distortion, showed a decline, while the fashion categories showed record growth, flattered by a low comparable period.
The fashion categories were the outstanding winners in March, as the mild weather was in phase with the launch of the Spring/Summer ranges.
This was in contrast with March 2013, when cold temperatures had led to the worst performance of the year.
Symptomatic of the impulse factor, the Women’s segment led the way. A successful Mother’s Day build-up was also singled-out as a key performance driver.
There was strong demand for new ranges which sold at full price, helping retailers to restore margins.
Dresses, blouses, slippers, men’s shorts were cited as particularly strong while men’s sport items didn’t sell so well. Women’s accessories, handbags, sunglasses also performed well.
Even with Easter being the second strongest period after Christmas for Children’s Clothing, the segment did not decline and outperformed expectations.
Character events and fancy dress, combined with the favourable weather, helped smooth out the loss.