High street sales in the three months to April were up 4.8 per cent, compared with the same period last year - the highest since November 2004. Non-food sales rose 1.6 per cent and food sales were up 0.4 per cent in the three-month period. The strongest growth occurred in non-store retailing - sales were up 17 per cent year on year, the highest growth since records began in 1986 . Sales for clothing retailers also increased 3.1 per cent, the highest growth for this sector since May 2004.
However, analysis of monthly figures revealed that sales fell 0.1 per cent between March and April. Household goods stores reported that sales fell 3 per cent and non-specialised stores revealed a slide of 0.3 per cent. However, the increases occurred in non-store retailing and clothing, where sales increased 2.5 per cent and 1 per cent respectively.
Barclays retail and wholesale sectors national director Paul Clarke said: 'The glorious weather in April, including a sun-drenched Easter weekend, boosted sales of summer clothes and DIY. However, household goods did not fare as well. Overall, the underlying rate of growth of retail sales remains robust. Looking forward to May, there are growing concerns that consumer spending is coming under increasing pressure. Strong worldwide demand for commodities will continue to impact prices in both the food and drink and household goods sectors.'
Ernst & Young retail director Tim Sleep added: 'With the recent interest rate rises finally starting to bite many consumers, coupled with the prospect of a further rate hike, trading conditions for retailers are set to become tougher for the foreseeable future.'