Retail sales by value increased 3.9% in March driven by a mild spring, positive signs from the housing market and increasing consumer confidence.
Figures released today by the Office for National Statistic (ONS) showed that all retail sectors showed growth. The March increase was a marginal improvement on February.
However, the rise contrasts with figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, which earlier this month reported a 0.3% fall in total sales in March.
According to the ONS data, the biggest improvement was seen in department stores, where sales leapt up by 10% from March 2013. Food stores however saw minimal growth, increasing by just 0.1% year on year reflecting continued downward pressure on prices.
Aales of household goods leapt by 8.5%.
By volume, overall retailer sales were up 4.2%. However, grocery volumes were down 2.3%. Non-food volumes were up 9.6%.
Commenting on the figures, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking managing director for retail Keith Richardson said: “Non-food retailers such as furniture and DIY specialists were amongst the best performers as the consumer recovery and continued upturn in the housing market boosted sales. Clothing and footwear retailers, aided by the arrival of warm spring weather, recovered from the previous month’s poor results.”
Deloitte head of UK retail Ian Geddes said: ““These results are a further sign that consumers are starting to release the handbrake on their discretionary spending, whilst continuing to keep a keen eye on costs when shopping for essentials. Food retailers continue to struggle, despite easing inflation, as consumers remain focused on price”.
There was minor deflation in overall prices, which fell by 0.5% in March, driven partly by another sharp drop in fuel prices which came down by 5.8%.
Online sales also continued their yearly upward trend, increasing by 7.1% compared to March last year, and 1.4% on February’s figure.