The latest BRC-KPMG Sales Monitor, covering the five weeks to 2nd April, reveals flat sales, a conclusion somewhat distorted by the early Easter.

Despite this, furniture sales saw positive distortion, as the week after Easter – which was not included in last year's figures for the month – tends to be a week favoured by families to go shopping for big ticket items. Stores and online channels recorded good growth.

Although this distortion is set to reverse in April, the underlying growth trend noted in previous months continued in March, particularly for bedding furniture.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), comments: “Neither growth nor decline in total YOY sales in March, although this relatively disappointing picture is distorted by the earlier timing of Easter this year. It was a bit of a mixed picture across the industry as a whole with big ticket items continuing to do well and furniture being the main contributor of total sales growth.

“Looking at the long-term picture, the rolling 12-month average growth slowed to 1.4%, its lowest since August 2015. This slowdown can’t be viewed in isolation – retail is an industry undergoing significant structural change as the investment in the digital offer continues apace while, from a consumer perspective, more disposable income is being spent on leisure and entertainment.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail, KPMG, adds: “Despite the clock move bringing extra hours of daylight, there was no spring forward for retail sales during March, with growth broadly flat overall. Earlier Easters are not always good for the fashion industry as consumers are put off purchases of lighter fashions and footwear in cooler temperatures and this was certainly the case this year. However, furniture and home accessories benefited from consumers taking on home improvement projects over the long weekend while the ‘Mother’s Day effect’ boosted sales of jewellery and watches.

“Looking ahead, retailers will be hoping for fewer April showers this month to entice spending on these newly-launched ranges and to help alleviate the additional cost burden with the implementation of the National Living Wage.”