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Early taste of summer’s warmth boosts UK retailers

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UK retail sales rose in March, boosted by the mild weather, according to figures contained in a report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Driven by strong trading in clothing and DIY and gardening equipment, overall sales were up 3.9% on a like-for-like basis compared with the previous March, when they declined by 1.4%, due to poor weather in many experts’ estimation.

However, the BRC said that this year’s figures may not be as strong as they first appear as last year’s drop was mainly due to Easter falling in April rather than March, as it did in 2005.

For the January-March quarter, sales were up 3.5% this year on a like-for-like basis.

“While these results are obviously welcome, they must be set against the poor sales performance we reported a year ago,” said BRC director general Kevin Hawkins. “However, while food sales strengthened in March after dipping in February, some sectors had to cut prices to tempt shoppers, particularly home and kitchenware stores.

“Discounting and competition generally show no signs of easing off and many consumers are wary of making big purchases.”

City analyst Colin Perry said that the continuing growth in retail sales may make an increase in interest rates more likely next month.


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