BRC statistics released today show last month’s warm weather compared to March 2008’s snow and rain helped outdoor leisure, toys and sports sales.
The figures showed art and crafts were popular and children’s toys showed gains for some, though amid strong competition.
Overall, UK retail sales values fell 1.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis, and rose only 0.6 per cent on a total basis, from March 2008, when sales were very weak, hit by extremely unseasonal weather.
Easter falling in April this year but in March last year, together with warm sunny weeks this March but snow and rain last March, make comparisons difficult.
The decline in non-food sales was smaller than in February, as warmer weather benefited many sectors.
Non-food non-store sales (internet, mail-order and phone sales) in March were 10.8 per cent higher than a year ago. This continued the slowdown from the 30 per cent gain in December.
Stephen Robertson, director general, British Retail Consortium, said: “This is unlikely to be the basis of sustained improvement. Customers are still worried about jobs and their own finances - so they’re keeping spending under tight control. We’ve now seen negative like-for-like sales growth in nine of the past ten months.”
Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG, said: "The timing of Easter was always going to make year-on-year comparisons difficult. The comparative figures were particularly weak, as last year's results were affected by some poor weather and came at the turning point when declining consumer confidence really started to impact spending.
“So, while 0.6 per cent growth in the value of total retail sales is nothing to write home about, it is better than expected given that we still have the anticipated uplift due to Easter trading to come in April."