Retail sales were “below expectation” for the month of April, despite the Easter long weekend, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

Like-for-like sales increased by 3.7% in April compared to the same period in 2018, when they registered a 4.2% downturn year on year.

Total retail sales for the month saw a 4.1% uptick, against a downturn of 3.1% in April 2018. This was above both the three- and 12-month average increases of 1.2% and 1.4% respectively.

The BRC said the April figures were “positively distorted by the timing of the run-up to Easter”, which fell later in April this year compared to 2018. It said it was then more accurate to look at the two-year averages.

In terms of like-for-like sales, the two-year average was actually down by 0.3%, while total sales were up just 0.4%.

Online penetration increased to 29.7% in April 2019, compared to 28% the previous year.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Retail sales were below expectation this month as the sunshine over the Easter weekend persuaded many to pursue recreational, rather than retail, activities. Department stores, as well as clothing and footwear shops, were harder hit by the warmer weather, while food-to-go fared much better from it.

“Online accounted for a little under 30 per cent of all non-food sales and we expect this proportion to continue to rise. Nonetheless, the pace of growth has slowed over the course of the year despite the investment that many stores have made in their digital offering.”

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin said: “April may have eased the strain on retailers somewhat, but we can’t overlook the fact that the new tax year also presents retailers with additional costs ranging from increased minimum wages to additional pension contributions. The task of balancing sales and a profitable margin remains crucial, especially given the widespread promotional activity currently.”