British retailers reported a boost in spending from Mother's Day purchases in March, during an otherwise downbeat sales period when cost of living pressures and unusually wet weather kept shoppers at home.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that its members - mostly large chain stores and supermarkets - reported a 5.1% year-on-year increase in retail spending in March, down a shade from annual growth of 5.2% in February.
In real terms, this represents a sharp fall in the volume of goods purchased, as consumer price inflation ran at 10.4% in February, the most recent official data shows.
Like-for-like sales, which strip out changes in retail space, rose by 4.9%, the same as in February.
"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," BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
Mother's Day was marked in Britain on March 19 this year, and saw last-minute purchases of jewellery, perfume and flowers, the BRC said.
British consumers have been pressured for more than a year by high inflation which has outstripped pay growth for almost all workers. Last month government forecasters estimated households were in the midst of the biggest two-year squeeze in living standards since comparable records started in the 1950s.
Spending On Utilities
Barclays reported that consumer credit and debit card spending in March was 4.0% higher than a year earlier, down from growth of 5.9% in February.
Spending on utilities was 39% higher than a year earlier - reflecting higher energy prices and a cold March - while spending at restaurants dropped by 5.6%, home improvements fell 6.6% and clothing spending declined 3.4%, the biggest drop in six months, Barclays said.
Retailers, pubs and restaurants, hoping for a boost from Britons celebrating King Charles's coronation next month, may also be set for disappointment.
Only 35% of Britons planned extra spending to mark the public holiday, with 11% expecting to buy extra food and drink to entertain guests, while 8% intended to spend more in pubs, which will have extended opening hours, Barclays said.