Mother’s Day and warm weather fail to provide respite for high street

Mother’s Day and warm spring weather failed to provide respite from poor sales for the struggling high street in March, figures show.

A mere 4.8% rise in sales failed to counterbalance last March’s dire 10.1% fall due to poor trading conditions caused by the Beast from the East, which resulted in the worst month for the high street since November 2008, BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker shows.

The latest figures close a “disastrous” first quarter for the high street, BDO said.

Lifestyle sales suffered a 2.7% fall off a 4.5% drop last March, making it the 14th consecutive month of negative in-store results despite Mother’s Day.

Fashion sales were up 8.2% but could not offset a 12.7% drop last March, while homeware sales rose 9% but could not make up for last year’s 13.2% fall.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “With increased footfall, falling unemployment and rising wages, the stars should have aligned for high street retailers in March.

“Yet sales remained extremely poor and any positive movement failed to make a dent in the huge negative result we had last year caused by the Beast from the East.

“There has been noise of increases in total consumer spending, but these results only demonstrate that the spending is largely driven as a result of price inflation of weekly essentials with the discretionary purse remaining bare.

“Retailers continue to trade on paper-thin margins and the impact of further increases in business rates and staffing costs from this April will only add to the fears of further possible high street casualties.”

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