Easter fails to spur sales growth

Retail sales growth was 'disappointing' last month, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, but performance was in line with analysts' expectations.

Till receipts were up 1.3 per cent year on year on a like-for-like basis in March, while total sales rose 4.4 per cent.

However, they were boosted by a weak March last year, when sales were dampened by fears about the Iraq war.

New BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said the Bank of England should keep sluggish, promotion-led sales growth and fragile consumer sentiment at 'the front of its mind' when deciding whether to raise interest rates.

KPMG head of retail Amanda Aldridge said that as well as coming from a 'low base', last month's figures benefited from an earlier Easter.

Colder, wetter weather, compared with last spring, meant seasonal fashions and shoes, for older women in particular, did poorly.

However, young fashion and menswear fared better. The weather depressed sales of garden furniture, paint and building materials, but helped sales of heaters and tumble driers. DVD players and flat-screen TVs also sold well.

Investec analyst Matthew McEachran said the figures represented the 'sort of slowdown we expected', and that the poor like-for-like growth was 'now possibly the rule, rather than the exception'.