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Bank holiday sun kicks off spring sales

Fashion retailers made up for the “Easter that never was” over the May Day bank holiday weekend, as the warm weather drove shoppers onto the high street in search of lightweight spring styles.

Footfall in London’s West End was up 10.7% against last year, which was described as “remarkable” by trade body the New West End Company.

Retailers said the sunshine had brought them level with last year’s trade and the weekend had made up for the poor Easter and dismal April, which saw the worst fashion sales figures for eight years, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Mosaic Fashions chief executive Derek Lovelock said: “The bank holiday was better because of the weather. It will continue to be a tough year, but we are performing slightly better than expected overall.”

Robert Kimpton, chairman of womenswear chain Viyella, said the warm weather and a 20% off Sale had pulled in customers: “I’m a lot more positive than a week ago and margins held up well over the weekend,” he said.

One Irish retailer said anyone reporting flat sales should be “pretty pleased with themselves.” He added: “The weather has made a difference and while we are not where we’d hoped to be, we should be level on last year by the end of the week.”

One head of an accessories retailer said the bank holiday weekend had been “fantastic” and that he was now feeling more optimistic. “Footfall was up in places like Oxford Street in London, which have been very quiet until now. There are positive noises coming from the Bank of England and the stock market is looking a little better. With the weather, this should make consumers feel a bit better,” he said.

However, the BRC warned: “Spring looks to have finally kicked off, but we must not forget that this is happening against a background of tight personal finance.”

A high street chain boss agreed. “Not surprisingly the weather has put people in a good mood and made retailers more optimistic. But how long it will last is anyone’s guess. Better trade over the few days of the weekend isn’t going to have much effect on the longer trading pattern,” he said.

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