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Easter sun sees UK retail sales surge

UK retail sales rose at their strongest pace in five years in April as the combination of Easter, the royal wedding and warm weather provided retailers with a boost following a month of poor sales in March.

According to the British Retail Consortium, sales rose 5.2% on a like-for-like basis from April 2010 – the largest annual increase since April 2006, when sales rose 6.8%.

Total sales rose 6.9% against a 0.2% decrease in April 2010, with food sales returning to growth after March’s decline, which stemmed from this year’s late Easter.

While the strong sales figures are welcome news for retailers, the BRC cautioned that the figures don’t provide an accurate gauge of actual conditions on the high street.

"Considered together, the results for March and April largely cancel each other out and the overall trend is flat," said Stephen Robertson, director-general of the British Retail Consortium.

"The underlying pressures on the retail sector of climbing costs and depressed consumer spending will be problems for many months to come."

Meanwhile, Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of food and grocery experts IGD remained upbeat: “Shoppers made the most of the hottest April on record, the bank holidays and the royal wedding. Alcohol sales, particularly Champagne, received a boost as people toasted the royal couple’s big day.”

Lucy Shaw, 16.05.11

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