Consumers tipped to spend £10.5bn over Easter weekend

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The Independent Online

Retailers are hopeful that the Easter weekend will lure back shoppers who have been on strike since Christmas, with consumers tipped to spend a record £10.5bn over the four-day break.

Spending this Easter is expected to rise 2 per cent on last year, the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicted based on its analysis of consumer trends.

Retail sales have been edging up after a post-Christmas lull, according to official data, although the timing of Easter, which fell at the end of March last year, has skewed some of the recent surveys.

The British Retail Consortium said last week UK retail sales slipped 1.4 per cent in March, the first fall in five months, because of the later Easter. "We expect to see a further pick-up in retail sales and the Easter weekend and the beginning of spring should unlock a backlog of spending that has been suppressed because winter has been so cold," Douglas McWilliams, the chief executive of the CEBR, said.

For retailers, Easter is second only to Christmas in terms of boosting sales. Stuart Rose, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, estimated that the group's sales jump 1 per cent on an underlying basis over the four-day holiday.

Among those most desperate for a pick-up in trading are the do-it-yourself chains, including Kingfisher's B&Q and GUS's Homebase. Both have struggled against a backdrop of the weakest DIY market for a decade. Easter is traditionally the biggest weekend of the year for DIY, and both groups are offering steep discounts to tempt homeowners to embark on some major redecoration.

The CEBR predicts spending on DIY could reach £1.07bn, which equates to £44 for every household in the country. Homebase issued a profits warning last week,while B&Q admitted it was caught on the hop by the decline in the market.

Shoppers are expected to spend £650m on clothes and footwear over the weekend as rising temperatures persuade them to splash out on spring fashions, the CEBR said. The economics think-tank said rising take-home pay and the strengthening housing market would help to boost consumer confidence.

The BRC was less optimistic about the amount of money its members will take over the holiday period, predicting Easter spending would reach £5bn.

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