Shoppers put cost of living fears behind them as they splashed out on Mother Day gifts in March, helping to slightly boost retail sales, but damp weather and soaring inflation has left the sector holding out for the King’s coronation in May to see a “larger uptick” in sales.
According to data by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), consumers scrambling for last minute gifts for Mother’s Day helped prop retail sales up 5.1 per cent last month, against an increase of 3.1 per cent in March 2022.
This figure is above the three-month average growth of 4.8 per cent and the 12-month average growth of 2.6 per cent.
Despite this, an unusually wet March drove sales down in DIY and fashion as shoppers were hesitant to invest in new spring wardrobes.
“While the wettest March in over forty years dampened sales growth for fashion, gardening and DIY products, Mother’s Day brightened up sales for the month,” Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said.
“Stores were given an extra boost, as last-minute shoppers dashed to their local high streets and shopping centres to purchase jewellery, fragrances and flowers.”
However, as inflation soars, Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, said the figures were “disappointing” for retailers as high costs limited consumer spending for the rest of the month.
“High street retailers saw some limited growth across most categories in March, but as consumers cut back on eating out, spending on home comforts, accessories and furniture saw the biggest growth with people looking to entertain at home instead,” he said.
The sector will now be hoping for a boost from the King’s coronation in May, with tourists flocking to the event and local celebrations expected to lift retail sales.
“The King’s coronations celebration could give retail sales a much-needed shot in the arm amid the cost of living crisis – similar to last year’s Platinum Jubilee celebration,” Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor said.
James Hardiman, senior analyst at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retail sales are usually boosted by large national events.
“Given the King’s Coronation will be such a historical event, we expect an even larger uptick in retail sales, with consumers flocking to purchase Coronation-related memorabilia, bunting, and food and drinks to celebrate the occasion.”