The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is reporting that UK total March retail sales increased 3.5 percent year-over-year (YoY) in March, cycling growth of 5.1 percent in March 2023. This was said to exceed the 3-month average growth of 2.1 percent and the 12-month average growth of 2.9 percent.

The measured period for March ran for the five weeks ended March 30, 2024.

Non-Food sales reportedly decreased 1.9 percent YoY over the three-months through March 30, cycling growth of 1.8 percent in March 2023. This is steeper than the 12-month average decline of 1.1 percent. For the month of March, Non-Food was in decline year-over-year.

In-store Non-Food sales over the three months to March decreased 1.1 percent year on year, against a growth of 5.2 percent in March 2023. This is below the 12-month average of 0.0 percent.

Online Non-Food sales decreased by 1.4 percent YoY in March, against a decline of 2.1 percent in March 2023. This was shallower than the 3-month and 12-month declines of 3.1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.
The online penetration rate (the proportion of Non-Food items bought online) decreased to 36.6 percent in March from 36.8 percent in March 2023. This was higher than the 12-month average of 36.2 percent.

“While retail sales growth improved last month, this was largely driven by Easter falling unusually early and the subsequent uplift to food sales in the week preceding the long weekend, explained Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium. “Easter also boosted sales of non-food products such as cookware and tableware, as people readied themselves to host family and friends. Home textiles such as throws and pillows were also popular as consumers sought to spruce up their homes ahead of Spring. Elsewhere, wet weather dampened sales of garden furniture, BBQs, DIY products, and clothing and footwear.”

Linda Ellett, UK head of consumer markets, Leisure & Retail, KPMG, said an early Easter showed green shoots of spring for retailers in March, with sales growth up a more positive 3.5 percent on last year, and above headline inflation for the first time in more than two years.

“High street sales growth was driven by food and drink, health and beauty and keen gardeners who headed outside to enjoy the first days of spring,” she noted. “There were also some signs of improvement with more categories starting to see positive sales growth in March for the first time in months. Online sales, however, continued to slide, falling by 1.4 percent despite strong performances in home accessories, health, beauty, and homewares.”