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Retail sales fall for first time in 2 years
Apr '08
UK retail sales fell 1.6% on a like-for-like basis, compared with March 2007, when sales were up 3.9%. The decline was the worst since July 2005 when cold wet weather hit sales.

The earlier Easter, together with extremely unseasonal weather and school holidays spread across several weeks, make comparisons difficult. The additional spending for Easter being in March this year but in April last year would normally be expected to result in a year-on-year increase in sales.

Food sales slowed after two strong months and clothing and footwear were the worst for at least 8 years. Homewares and furniture fell further, despite continued discounting and promotions.

Consumer confidence has fallen further to new lows. With increasing demands on household budgets, shoppers are very price-conscious and reluctant to spend on big-ticket items. Heavy discounting was still needed to tempt customers to buy.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “This is the first year-on-year fall in like-for-like sales for two years and the worst result for nearly three years.

Here is the strongest evidence yet that customers are making serious economies and are increasingly concerned about the future. With recent retail profit warnings, it is further proof that trading is extremely tough but retailers are fighting back by keeping prices low and delivering extra value.

Hard-up customers and dreadful Easter weather conspired to dampen demand for DIY and gardening retailers and those selling clothing, footwear and big-ticket items such as domestic appliances and furniture but almost every sector except food saw sales down on a year ago. It's clear customers are concentrating on essentials.”

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