- UK retail sales values were up 1.9% on a like-for-like basis from March 2012, when they had risen 1.3% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 3.7%, against a 3.6% rise in March 2012.
- Growth is inflated by the timing of Easter, which fell in March this year but in April last year. Unseasonable weather hindered fashion categories.
- Adjusted for Shop Price Index inflation at 1.4% in March, total retail sales values grew 2.3% in real terms.
- Online sales were up 6.6% compared with March 2012, when they had risen by 13.9%.
Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: "This is a positive result, which rounds off a first quarter of cautious optimism for many retailers. Easter fell in March this year but April in 2012, which helps this year’s figures, especially for items which tend to sell well over the long weekend like food and homewares. But even if we strip out the data for the last week of March, performances are encouraging, considering the weather impact.
"Snow and the prolonged cold were not ideal but not a disaster. They brought mixed fortunes for different categories. Food was boosted by a continued appetite for hearty meals and ‘wintry’ fare such as roasts and chocolate. But demand was cool for new season clothing and footwear lines, resulting in a decline for both categories.
"2013 has got off to an encouraging start for the market as a whole. Retailers are now hoping for a boost in consumer confidence and the general mood to lift performance across all, not just some sectors, as we head into the second quarter. Getting a bit of sunshine, at long last, might help that along!"
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "The early Easter this year certainly boosted the March sales figures and food and drink sales in particular soared as people stocked up to enjoy the long weekend. There was also a welcome rise in house-related spending over the Easter break.
"Easter distortions aside, the three-month average figures paint a positive picture and show the highest like-for-like sales increases since December 2009. On the back of strong January and February results, this may be the beginning of a positive trend and will be welcomed by many retailers.
"However, some sectors were hit by the wintry weather. Clothing and footwear retailers had a dismal month as the cold weather froze sales, leaving Summer skirts and sandals on the shelves. This year-on-year fall is made worse by the strong sales seen last March when a veritable heatwave drove sales of Spring stock. Clothing and footwear retailers will be desperate for a change in weather in April.
"With Easter falling early this year, the April sales comparatives will be negatively affected but it is hoped that the positive bounce of the first quarter of 2013 can continue to be felt across the country, buoyed by the opening of new shopping centres in cities such as Leeds."
Food & Drink sector performance – Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive, IGD, said: "The lead-up to Easter and Mother’s Day were the top two food and drink sales weeks of the year so far.
"Spending on alcohol was particularly strong before Easter, proving people are still celebrating the special occasions.
"Although reading the market is tricky at this time of year because of the shifting date of Easter, there is cause for optimism.
"Our ShopperVista research shows that 17 percent of shoppers expect to be better off in the year ahead – the highest level we’ve seen since January 2011, when we began tracking this."
The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor measures changes in the actual value (including VAT) of retail sales, excluding automotive fuel. The Monitor measures the value of spending and hence does not adjust for price or VAT changes. If prices are rising, sales volumes will increase by less than sales values. In times of price deflation, sales volumes will increase by more than sales values.
Retailers report the value of their sales for the current period and the equivalent period a year ago. These figures are reported both in total and on a ‘like-for-like’ basis.
Total sales growth is the percentage change in the value of all sales compared to the same period a year earlier. The total sales measure is used to assess market level trends in retail sales. It is a guide to the growth of the whole retail industry, or how much consumers in total are spending in retail – retail spending represents approximately one-third of consumer spending. It is this measure that is often used by economists. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of total sales.
'Like-for-like' sales growth (LFL) is the percentage change in the value of comparable sales compared to the same period a year earlier. It excludes any spending in stores that opened or closed in the intervening year, thus stripping out the effect on sales of changes in floorspace. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of like-for-like comparable sales.
The like-for-like measure is often used by retailers, the city and analysts to assess the performance of individual companies, retail sectors and the industry overall, without the distorting effect of changes in floorspace.
Online (including mail order and phone) sales of non-food are transactions which take place over the internet, or via mail order or phone. Online sales growth is the percentage change in the value of online sales compared to those in the same period a year earlier. It is a guide to the growth of sales made by this non-store channel. It should be noted that online sales are still a small proportion of total UK retail sales. Estimates based on ONS figures show about 9 per cent of total UK retail sales (food and non-food) are achieved via the non-store channel.
The responses provided by retailers within each sales category are weighted (based on ONS weightings) to reflect the contribution of each category to total retail sales, thus making it representative of UK retail sales as a whole. Because the figures compare sales this month with the comparable period last year, a seasonal adjustment is not made. However, changes in the timing of Bank Holidays and Easter can create distortions, which should be considered in the interpretation of the data.
As well as receiving sales value direct from the retailers in the scheme the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor also receives food and drink sales value data from the IGD's Market Track Scheme.
In its role as sponsor of the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, KPMG is responsible for the aggregation of the retail sales data provided by the retailers on a weekly basis. This data consists of the relevant current week’s sales data and comparative sales figures for the same period in the prior year. The aggregation has been performed by KPMG on data for periods following 2 April 2000 and equivalent prior periods. The accuracy of the data is entirely the responsibility of the retailers providing it. The sponsorship role has been performed by KPMG since 10 April 2000 and the same for the aggregation of comparative sales figures for the period from 2 April 2000 it is not responsible for the aggregation of any data included in this Monitor relating to any period prior to 2 April 2000. The commentary from KPMG is intended to be of general interest to readers but is not advice or a recommendation and should not be relied upon without first taking professional advice. Anyone choosing to rely on it does so at his or her own risk. To the fullest extent permitted by law, KPMG will accept no responsibility or liability in connection with its sponsorship of the Monitor and its aggregation work to any party other than the BRC.
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The March 2013 Monitor, covering the five weeks 24 February – 30 March, will be released at 00.01am Tuesday 9 April 2013.
The data is collected and collated for the BRC by KPMG.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the UK's leading retail trade association. It represents the full range of retailers, large and small, multiples and independents, food and non-food, online and store based.
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