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You can bank on an uncertain Easter

Jessica Brown

Does a late Easter with extra bank holidays mean good news for trade?

Does a late Easter with extra bank holidays mean good news for trade? You’d have to hope so after this week’s dire February sales report from the British Retail Consortium, which showed clothing sales were flat. That may not sound so bad at face value but when you consider this included a non-comparable half-term week and its resulting boost in kidswear sales, the reality of menswear and womenswear performance makes for grim reading. Save for the odd strong sale of blouses (a good transitional trend), trade remained in negative territory all month.

However, retailers remain bewildered by what this Easter will bring, with most resigned to the fact there are so many anomalies it is virtually impossible to call. School holidays end with the Easter weekend instead of wrapping around it, while the extra royal wedding bank holiday threatens to keep most would-be shoppers away from the high street and glued to the TV. John Lewisand Marks & Spencer are among the retailers that aren’t bothering to open before 1pm on April 29. That staff can get a 10-day bonus Easter break while only booking three days off could be good or bad depending on whether shoppers have a ‘staycation’ or head for sunnier climes.

One retailer this week told me he was sure spring spending would come regardless. “Not everyone is going to stay worried,” he said, before conceding he was a “glass half-full kind of guy” that didn’t believe the Government would risk an interest rate rise. By contrast, another said he had thrown his calendar in the bin and given up analysing anything: “It’s tough and the economy is in danger,” he bemoaned.

A late Easter normally means a promotional one and, given the state of consumer confidence, I would be surprised to see anything else.

Jessica Brown Editor

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