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Even a wet Easter could do little to dampen spirits

The nation’s retailers approached Easter with great trepidation this year, as forecasters were predicting wintry weather after the unseasonably warm spell which preceded the break.

In the end, they weren’t far wrong. John Lewis appears to be the only company reporting “stonking” sales over the wet and windy bank holiday weekend.

However, the stormy Easter weekend didn’t affect the month’s trading too much, as the high street witnessed a significant jump in retail sales for this period.

The total value of retail sales rose 3.6% during March compared with a year earlier, while like-for-like revenues grew 1.3%. These figures follow a 2.3% increase in February, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

March’s unexpected sunshine had an important role to play in these sales figures, with the BRC reporting that the rise was largely driven by clothing, footwear and outdoor leisure, as consumers rushed to buy sandals and other items suitable for the warmer weather. Clearly, winter-weary consumers are on the lookout for any sign that summer is on the way, and unseasonably warm weather always seems to do the trick. Even a wet Easter could do little to dampen their spirits.

For fashion retailers, the lesson is that adapting to changing market dynamics is crucial, and response times are key.

Tesco has seen its fair share of criticism from the media recently, but is already fighting back with a revamped fruit and veg counter and improved uniforms for staff, changes that have already showed signs of resonating well with the target customer, with one retired couple stating that the store looked “100% better” in this weekend’s Sunday Times.

If other retailers make similar improvements, even moderate gains in April should be enough to provide UK retailers with a positive quarter of growth, which would be a real confidence boost to the great British high street in the run-up to the Jubilee and the Olympics.

  • Dan Coen, Head of retail, corporate advisory firm Zolfo Cooper.

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