Cold weather hits retail sales

Freezing weather drove retail sales down 1.3 per cent in April as barbecue goods and garden furniture remained stuck on stores’ shelves.

Shrinking food sales weighed heavily in April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, with food volumes slumping by 4.1 per cent month-on-month to the lowest level since May 2011 as the deep freeze continued at the start of the month.

Industry watchers said the figures provide a stark reminder that the economy is “not yet out of the woods”.

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Peter Saville, partner at restructuring firm Zolfo Cooper, said: “While the UK economy managed to avoid a triple-dip recession, the retail sector is still struggling to make a sustained comeback.

“However, with indicators suggesting that consumer confidence is on the rise, there is certainly an opportunity for retailers to capitalise on this and drive growth within the UK economy.”