Retail sales volumes slipped 0.5% in March as the cold conditions pulled down the performance of non-food.
Non-food sales volumes fell 2.6% according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The report found that sales in department stores, clothing stores and household goods stores “were dampened by the weather as they prepared their stores for the spring season”.
The overall 0.5% dip compares with a 2.5% rise in February.
Retail sales values edged up 0.1% year on year in March, driven by food and non-store retailing.
Month-on-month sales volumes declined 0.7% while values were flat.
The average weekly spend online in March was £601.4m, up 20.5% on 2012. ONS said online sales remained buoyant as customers chose to shop on the internet rather than brave the cold conditions outside.
Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “While March’s Arctic blast discouraged consumers from heading into stores, it didn’t stop them from shopping from the comfort of their homes, with retailers reporting strong online sales.
“The recent spell of milder weather will now be be helping retailers to sell more seasonal ranges. Garden centres, which missed out at Easter – traditionally the busiest weekend of the year – will be hoping to cash in on the better weather.”
Deloitte UK head of retail Ian Geddes said: “Today’s figures reflect a disappointing Easter performance. The industry hoped for a strong annual increase in sales, given the Easter break fell in March this year as opposed to April in 2012. In particular, the fashion sector suffered due to the prolonged winter weather. Spring/summer collections were left out in the cold as consumers delayed seasonal purchases.
“Food retailers fared better as they capitalised on Mother’s Day and Easter celebrations.
“Those retailers with a strong online presence also reaped the rewards. Footfall fell as consumers opted to avoid the chill and shop from the comfort of their own home.
“Nevertheless, the outlook is beginning to look a little brighter for the retail industry. Spring has finally arrived, inflation remains stable and credit availability continues to improve, suggesting pressure on purse strings is starting to ease.”