March heat fuels welcome high street sales boost

Shoppers made the most of the sunshine. Picture: David Moir
Shoppers made the most of the sunshine. Picture: David Moir
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BRITAIN’s hard-pressed shopkeepers enjoyed a welcome boost last month after March’s mini heatwave lifted demand for clothing and footwear.

Releasing its latest sales monitor today, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said like-for-like sales rose a healthy 1.3 per cent, compared with a year earlier.

The footwear category recorded its best sales growth for nearly five years, clothing firms saw their strongest performance since the frenzy of pre-Christmas special offers and demand for gardening goods and barbecue food also hit a high.

However, retail bosses warned that the buoyant figures compared to an “exceptionally weak” March the previous year and said the sunshine may have brought sales forward rather than creating a genuine increase.

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said life remained difficult for retailers, who are having to put on more special offers to drum up trade as shoppers battle rising petrol and utility bills.

“The warmth of March was a help, but it will take more than a week of sunshine to transform retailers’ fortunes,” he added.

Health and beauty sales were slightly up, as demand for suncream and fragrances was boosted by the summer-like weather and Mothering Sunday.

But the market for electrical items remained testing, as cautious shoppers only bought what was necessary and shied away from “big ticket” items where possible.