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Easter helps March retail sales

A strong Easter and good weather proved a welcome boost to British retailers in March, according to the British Retail Consortium's (BRC) retail sales monitor.Published in conjunction with accountancy firm KPMG, the monitor shows a 3.9 per cent like-for-like increase on sales in March 2006 and a total volume sales increase of 6.2 per cent.Analysts have pointed out that this unusually large growth is attributable to the bumper Easter period falling in March this year and April last year, however.While food sales did well there remains concern about big-ticket purchases, however, with some feeling that a combination of taxes, utility bills and debts are deterring consumers from venturing out onto the high street."Discounting and competition generally show no signs of easing off and many consumers are increasingly wary of making big purchases," warned BRC director general Kevin Hawkins."The current month's results, however, will be comparable with those of April 2006, so we will get a much better idea of the real growth rate in retail sales when we next report."Gavin Cameron of Oxford University suggested that shopkeepers would benefit from the "neutral policy stance" seen in the Bank of England's recent interest rate hold and chancellor Gordon Brown's balanced budget.Also beneficial would be the current state of the UK economy, predicted to reach growth of around 2.8 per cent in 2007. This, Dr Cameron said, reflected the belief that real households' disposable incomes would pick up, suggesting "reasonable conditions ahead for retailers".

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