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Easter sun brings out shoppers...

Most retailers report bank holiday surge, but trade wilts in the heat for some.

Retailers have breathed a sigh of relief after fine Easter weather helped to boost sales following a lackluster February and March.

Indies and high street chains tended to outperform department stores, who benefit from poorer weather, but most retailers saw an uplift in like-for-like sales for April.

In the week to Easter Sunday, retail footfall rose 1.3%, according to Experian.

“Trade was really, really strong and we were up double-digit through Good Friday,” said Ed Burstell, managing director of luxury London department store Liberty. He added that Saturday was flat - ahead of expectations - because of an influx of domestic and overseas tourists.

Mike Shearwood, chief executive of Aurora Fashions, which owns womenswear chains Warehouse, Coast and Oasis, said: “We had an exceptional weekend and exceeded forecasts. The customer was shopping summer dresses.”

Summer product performed well across the board, thanks both to the warm weather at home and consumers taking advantage of the adjacent bank holiday weekends to holiday overseas.

Discount etailer M and M Direct chief executive Steve Robinson said online sales were also better than expected: “We thought it was going to be a disaster but we traded as well as last Easter. Summer clothes like canvas shoes and plimsolls took off.”

However, the sunny weather acted as a deterrent to shoppers for retailers such as John Lewis and footwear chain Jones Bootmaker.

John Lewis director, retail operations Andrew Murphy said fashion was the business’s strongest category last week, led by sales of kidswear and seasonal items such as sunglasses, but like-for-like figures had been “very heavily [negatively] impacted” by the hot weather.

Ken Bartle, chief executive of footwear chain Jones Bootmaker, agreed the weather was too warm and said there was a regional divide in terms of buying habits. He said: “The ideal scenario is to have good weather during the week and less good weather at the weekend, prompting people to go shopping. Where the weather was hottest this weekend was where we did less well in terms of trade. East Anglia suffered the most, whereas the North and the Northwest were pretty good.”

The British Retail Consortium said margins were still likely to be down as shoppers remained promotions-driven. A spokesman said: “It was a strong weekend but sales are continuing to be driven by discounts and promotions. With any luck we will also see a good royal wedding and May Day weekend but they won’t change the fundamental [issue] for retailers that people are cutting back on spending, particularly on clothes.”

However, indies reported a strong weekend’s trading, despite the fact very few of them are on Sale at this point in the season.

James Leslie, co-owner of three-store London premium denim indie Trilogy, said like-for-likes for April would be up 100% on last year, despite slower trading over the Easter weekend. Deryane Tadd, owner of premium womenswear indie The Dressing Room in St Albans, said Easter trading was 34% up on Easter week last year. She added that April like-for-likes were already 5% up on last year.

Justine Mills, owner of premium womenswear boutique Cricket in Liverpool, said Easter trading was roughly on a par with Easter last year and that beachwear had performed particularly well. “We’ve sold bikinis and flip-flops and done well with Stella McCartney fruit-print dresses that look better when the sun’s out or when worn with a tan,” she said.

Janine O’Keefe, owner of premium womenswear indie O’Keefe in Weybridge and Esher in Surrey, said: “We only opened on the Saturday over the bank holiday weekend but it was worth it. We did well with bikinis by Paul Smith and cropped skinny jeans by James Jeans and MiH Jeans’ Paris style.”

Gerard Levy, owner of two-store London footwear indie Spice in Islington and Primrose Hill, which was closed on Monday, said trade was strong on Good Friday but dropped off on Saturday. “The weather helped sales of flat sandals by Chie Mihara and Camper and especially espadrilles by Castañer. I’ve also noticed there have been more French, Spanish and Italians in London over the past few weeks because of the favourable euro,” he said.

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