The value of UK retail sales in March saw the worst drop for at least 16 years.
According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor figures, sales were down 1.9% on a total basis from March 2010, when they had risen 6.6%, boosted by Good Friday and Easter Saturday falling in the March trading period.
On a like-for-like basis, sales were 3.5% lower, against a 4.4% increase in March 2010.
Like-for-like food sales fell well below their year-earlier level while non-food sales showed an even larger decline, with consumer uncertainty about jobs and incomes, as well as the later Easter, hitting both, according to BRC-KPMG. Big-ticket home and furniture purchases, often promotion-led, suffered most.
The figures also show that non-food non-store – that is, internet, mail order and phone – sales growth fell further in March. Sales were 7.5% higher than a year ago, the smallest increase since the series began in October 2008 and much weaker than the 10.4% in February.
“This is the worst drop in total sales since we first collected these figures in 1995,” commented BRC director general Stephen Robertson. “Non-food retailers were particularly hard-hit. This is strong evidence of the pressure customers and traders are under. This year’s later Easter is a factor but this fall goes way beyond anything that can be explained by that alone.”