Retail sales unexpectedly jumped in March as mild weather enticed shoppers to UK stores. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the year-on-year growth in March was 6.7% – the highest since October 2016.
The ONS said milder weather had helped to boost sales in comparison with the “Beast from the East” last year.
Monthly sales rose 1.1% – economists had been expecting a fall – with the warm weather boosting clothing sales.
Department stores were the only type of stores to report a fall in sales compared with the previous year, reporting a 0.3% decline in March.
The problems facing department stores was illustrated by Debenhams, which entered administration earlier this month before being taken over by its lenders.
Rhian Murphy, head of retail sales at the ONS, said: “March’s mild weather boosted sales, with food shops also recovering after a weak February”.
Philipp Gutzwiller, head of retail at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said the third consecutive month of increasing sales was good news for retailers as they headed in to the Easter break after a mixed Christmas.
“Those who see drops in reported annual profits as symptomatic of the continued decline of the High Street should look at the contrasting fortunes of some who have sophisticated physical and online presences,” he said.