Retail sales were down 0.9% in March, figures out today show.
The sixth wettest March since 1836 was blamed for keeping shoppers away. Shoppers also cut back on food and non-food sales, but fuel consumption nudged up.
Danni Hewson, AJ Bell head of financial analysis, comments on the latest retail sales figures: “No one wants to hit the high street during a downpour and even the most enthusiastic gardeners were probably holed up in their sheds rather than perusing the plant aisles in what was a ridiculously wet March.
“But the British weather can’t take all the blame for falling retail sales. Inflation weary shoppers have got used to cutting back or cutting out entirely and with prices of essential items like bread and cereal shooting up, some budgets aren’t just feeling the strain, they’re buckling under the weight.
“But it’s not a wholly gloomy picture when you pull out to look beyond the miserable month of March. Over three months things look brighter, thanks to strong sales in January and February. The latest consumer confidence figures suggest people are feeling better about their personal prospects and are now ready to make big ticket purchases if the price and the timing is right.
“March seems to have fallen in between two big spending moments; lovers appear to have splurged over Valentine’s Day and families might well have been feathering the nest ready for the long, late Easter holidays leaving little spare cash left over.
“The consumer has been resilient and resourceful, but it feels like we are at a tipping point. For some households, things haven’t been as bad as the doomsday scenarios being painted last year, for others every price rise rubs salt in raw wounds.
“Overall inflation is falling and there’s every indication it will keep heading in the right direction. But crucially it seems food prices might not have reached their zenith and that’s going to keep having a knock to how much money, if any, is left over for other purchases.”