Retail sales up, food unchanged

Total retail sales were up during March, although food sales remained broadly unchanged from the previous month, according to latest figures from the British Retail Consortium.

Total retail sales were up 1.3% on a like-for-like basis from March 2011, when they were down 3.5% on a year ago. However that growth was mainly driven by non-food, with food sales remaining at the same levels as February, the BRC said.

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said:  “It’s worth remembering the sales comparison is against the weakest month of last year, largely caused by the movement of Easter in the calendar, and we’ll have to see whether this is additional spending or just shopping that has happened earlier than usual. Food sales growth continues to be largely underpinned by food inflation rather than by customers buying more.
“The overall retail environment is still difficult. Discounting remains a key tactic for retailers trying to encourage consumers to spend. The warmth of March was a help, but it will take more than a week of sunshine to transform retailers’ fortunes.”
Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of IGD, said: “Mothering Sunday provided a mid-month boost to food and grocery sales in March. Easter now marks the start of a unique succession of events in the coming months, including the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics. The British love a reason to celebrate and our ShopperVista research shows many shoppers enjoy themed promotions and in-store activities.”

According to the survey, the warmer March weather drove sales of cold meats and barbecue products, as well as prepared salads.                                                                                                               

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