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Mixed news for the economy

There is mixed news for the economy. Retail sales for last month rose by 1.9% compared to March last year and there was an 0.8% in factory output for February. But the UK's trade deficit widened, mainly caused by a 1.1% fall in exports.

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'Encouraging start to 2013' for British retailers

This is a positive result, which rounds off a first quarter of cautious optimism for many retailers.

Easter fell in March this year but April in 2012, which helps this year's figures, especially for items which tend to sell well over the long weekend like food and homewares.

But even if we strip out the data for the last week of March, performances are encouraging, considering the weather impact.

Snow and the prolonged cold were not ideal but not a disaster.

They brought mixed fortunes for different categories.

Food was boosted by a continued appetite for hearty meals and ‘wintry' fare such as roasts and chocolate.

But demand was cool for new season clothing and footwear lines, resulting in a decline for both categories.

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. Getting a bit of sunshine, at long last, might help that along!"

– Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium

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