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Clothing and footwear suffer from March cold weather

The coldest March in 50 years boosted sales for food and drink, while clothing and footwear retailers endured a "dismal" month, The British Retail Consortium (BRC) found.

It is thought the cold weather encouraged an appetite for hearty meals, with food sales up as families enjoyed themselves over Easter.

A shopper carrying shopping bags on Oxford Street, London Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

According to the BRC, sales grew by 1.9% in March on a like-for-like basis, weaker than February's 2.7% surge.

The organisation said: "2013 has got off to an encouraging start for the market as a whole. Retailers are now hoping for a boost in consumer confidence and the general mood to lift performance across all, not just some sectors, as we head into the second quarter."


M&S chief: Company making 'strong progress'

Marks & Spencer Chief Executive Marc Bolland said the company is making "strong progress" in its bid to become an "international multi-channel retailer", despite reporting a drop in pre-tax profit during the first half of the year.

Instead, Mr Bolland highlighted the firm's performance in the second quarter, which was better than the previous quarter.

We took steps to address the short term merchandising issues in General Merchandise and as a result, we delivered an improved performance.

Eighteen months in, we are making strong progress with our plan to transform M&S into an International Multi-channel retailer.

Our new International stores are performing well, and our Multi-channel business is delivering strong growth.

– Marks & Spencer CEO Marc Bolland

M&S profits slide to £297 million as non-food sales drop

Marks & Spencer has revealed a slide in profits as its non-food sales continue to drop.

Marks & Spencer's non-food like-for-like sales are down 4.3 percent Credit: Reuters/Ki Price

M&S announced a pre-tax profit of £297 million for the period ending 29 September, down from £307 million a year earlier.

The firm posted a 4.3 percent decline in non-food like-for-like sales in the first half after admitting it had lost market share in its core womenswear market.

Retail figures are 'reminder of economic realities'

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said it looked like the modest sales revival seen in September was something of a "false dawn".

He said:

The disappointing figures are a reminder of the difficult economic realities many are still facing.

Falling consumer confidence means people are limiting spending to essential items and are cautious about committing to big-ticket and discretionary buying.

October sales 'fizzed out with a whimper'

Singer Robbie Williams turned on the Christmas lights at London's Oxford Street shopping hub yesterday. Credit: PA

Clothing and footwear sales saw double-digit like-for-like growth in the first week of the month as customers bought autumn and winter collections, but faded as they were too nervous to fill their wardrobes with them.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said October sales figures had been like a "disappointing firework - full of promise, but eventually fizzing out with a whimper" and said winning a share of the Christmas wallet over the next two months would be just as competitive as last year.


Poor retail figures dash hopes for pre-Christmas revival

Electrical retailer Comet entered administration last week. Credit: PA

Hopes for a continuing pre-Christmas sales revival were dashed today amid signs that consumers are still limiting spending to essential items.

In its worst figures outside of a seasonal period for 11 months, the British Retail Consortium said October's UK retail sales were 0.1% lower on a like-for-like basis than a year ago, ending the modest revival seen in September.

The figures heighten nerves in the sector ahead of the festive period, particularly after the collapse of electricals chain Comet.

BRC: Hopes Team GB feelgood factor will help consumer confidence

There was a boost for food retailers towards the end of the month as the sunshine came out and shoppers started getting in party food and drink ahead of the Olympics but it wasn't a significant help.

With only the opening couple of days of the Olympic Games covered by these statistics, we'll have to wait a while to assess the overall impact on retail sales.

Let's hope Team GB keeps on increasing its medal tally, bringing a feelgood factor that helps consumer confidence."

– Stephen Robertson, BRC director general

Total sales up 2% compared with 2.5% in July last year

Total sales, including new stores, were up 2% compared with 2.5% in July last year, while the three-month rolling average shows growth of like-for-like non-food sales outpacing food sales for the first time.

So-called big-ticket items such as furniture and household appliances continue to struggle to sell with growth being promotion-driven.

Online, mail-order and phone sales of non-food items show stronger growth, up 15.6% against growth of 9.6% last year.

KPMG: 'Sadly July was a lacklustre month'

Sadly July was a lacklustre month and it's doubtful this trend will change as early expectations that the Olympics will raise retailers' fortunes look to be wide of the mark.

Central London's retailers are already being hit hard by shoppers actively avoiding the capital.

It's likely that any blip of benefit the Games bring will be short-lived.

– Helen Dickinson, head of retail at professional services firm KPMG
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