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Good weather warms up internet sales

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Warm weather, a late Easter and the Royal Wedding brought a welcome boost to online sales growth in April, according to figures out today.

The British Retail Consortium’s monthly report on retail sales levels showed that non-food, non-store sales rose by a healthy 13.7% in April, compared to last April.

That compares well with the “exceptionally small” year-on-year growth of 7.5% in the category, which includes mail order and telephone sales as well as ecommerce, in March.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: “March’s figures were the weakest for several years but the numbers for April suggest it was also able to benefit from Easter trading and the sunny weather.

But, he warned: “Non-food, non-store sales are affected by the same pressures which are hitting sales of all kinds. Weak consumer confidence means people are reluctant to spend on non-essentials. The emphasis on discounts and promotions to secure business means customers are increasingly likely to investigate prices on the web. Online retailers will be doing everything they can to turn that internet traffic into tangible sales.”

The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for April also showed that total UK sales rose by 6.9%, or 5.2% on a like-for-like basis. That’s a recovery from the fall of 1.9% in total sales in March, or 3.5%, like-for-like – the worst performance for 16 years.

Robertson said: “Considered together the results for March and April largely cancel each other out and the overall trend is flat. The underlying pressures on the retail sector of climbing costs and depressed consumer spending will be problems for many months to come.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said the late Easter, warm weather and the Royal Wedding had brought a “welcome respite in a challenging retail trading environment.” But she said the longer-term trend was still downward, with 0.1% sales growth between February and April compared to 0.8% for the three months to January.

Commenting on food and drink sales, Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of grocery analysts IGD, said its ShopperTrack research found 81% of consumers said they would pay more for premium groceries, such as those that were locally produced, and that many were considering shopping more locally to save on petrol costs.

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