April weather boosts retail sales

A winning combination of the royal wedding and warm weather triggered a bigger-than-expected surge in retail sales last month, official figures revealed today.

Retail sales volumes rose 1.1% month-on-month in April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, as the extra bank holiday saw the biggest rise in food store sales in nearly three years.

It was the best April for retail sales volumes growth since 2002, the ONS added.

The warmest April on record also led to a 3.2% rise in clothing and footwear sales, the highest rise since June 2009, while gardening and sports sales also benefited from the sunshine, the ONS said.

Economists were expecting an increase in retail sales of up to 1%, but warned the spike is likely to be temporary as underlying problems remain on the high street.

Retail sales saw a modest bounceback to growth in March after a shock decline in February as reports from major retailers showed an industry struggling to cope with a squeeze on consumer spending.

Mothercare yesterday said it would shut 110 stores after posting a drop in UK profits, following the likes of entertainment group HMV, sportswear firm JJB and electrical retailers Comet and Dixons.

But the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29, coupled with sunshine and warm temperatures throughout the month, offered the sector some respite.

Food store sales were 1.4% higher than a year ago and 2.2% higher than March, the highest rise since May 2008, the ONS said.

Other surveys for April, including a report from the British Retail Consortium, suggested barbecue food featured heavily on customer receipts, but the ONS could not offer a breakdown on popular items.

Clothing retailers told the ONS that customers were filling their summer wardrobes, while toy sales were driven by outdoor items.

Elsewhere, there was a 1.5% monthly rise in sales volumes at household goods stores, but department stores saw a 0.3% decline.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, warned the jump in sales volumes should not be taken as a sign that "the consumer is roaring back to life".

He said: "What it suggests is that pressurised consumers need a particularly favourable set of circumstances to part with their cash. And we suspect that consumers are likely to keep a tight grip on their purse strings over the coming months."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific