UK retail sales benefit from Easter surge

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London - British retail sales got a boost in April as rising house prices encouraged shoppers to buy new furniture, flooring and other home decor over the Easter holiday weekend, the British Retail Consortium said on Tuesday.

The BRC said that the amount of money spent in stores last month was 5.7 percent higher than a year earlier, the biggest annual rise since April 2011. It dropped by 0.3 percent on the year in March.

The scale of the April increase was mostly due to the timing of Easter, which fell in March in 2013 but in April this year, although the BRC said that underlying sales were also strong in most sectors other than food and drink.

Total retail spending in the three months to April was 1.9 percent higher than a year earlier.

“The renewed confidence in the housing market inspired homeowners to invest in their property once again,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountants KPMG, which sponsors the survey.

British house prices have risen by around 10 percent over the past year, and more people are moving house, boosting consumer demand but also driving concerns among many economists that a bubble may be inflating in parts of the country.

The BRC said that on a like-for-like basis - a measure that adjusts for changes in floor space, and is favoured by equity analysts - retail sales in April were 4.2 percent up on 2013.

This compares with forecasts in a Reuters poll for a 1.8 percent rise, after a 1.7 percent decline in March, when year-on-year comparisons were depressed because Easter had boosted sales in March 2013.

Britain's Office for National Statistics releases its April retail sales numbers on May 21. The ONS data covers more small stores than the BRC, and focuses more on the volume of goods sold than the amount of money households spend.

March's official data showed that retail sales volumes were 4.2 percent higher than a year earlier, while spending was 3.9 percent higher. - Reuters


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