Retailers reported a good turnout over the Easter bank holiday, as the warm weather coaxed people into gardening centres and other stores.
B&Q, the DIY retailer, said the good weather had contributed to high demand for outdoor products. Sales of barbecues had more than doubled compared with the same period last year, while sales of plants and garden furniture were up by more than one-quarter.
In London, 1m people turned up around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, a 10 per cent increase on footfall numbers last year, according to the New West End Company.
Jace Tyrrell, the trade group’s head of communications, said retail confidence was strong, buoyed by an influx of domestic and international tourists.
“By and large, expectations have been met, with a very strong trading performance in particular on Friday overshadowing a quieter Saturday,” he said on Monday.
The good turnout in London’s West End had been helped by crowds drawn to the opening of Primark’s flagship store. Hundreds of people queued to enter the new 70,000 sq ft shop when it opened on Thursday, resulting in its glass doors caving in as shoppers jostled for position.
The John Lewis Partnership reported brisk sales of summer items. Paul Hunt, managing-director of Peter Jones, the Sloane Square branch of the John Lewis department stores, said on Monday: “We have seen a definite surge in fashion as people respond to the warm weather and get ready for summer. Shorts have done well, as has men’s formalwear, as customers are updating both their casual and work wardrobes.
“Easter gift food has also been a real success and sunglasses have been flying off the shelves, along with swimwear.”
The British Retail Consortium predicted sales of £7.8bn over Easter week, up 4 per cent on last year.
“This is a significant time for retailers and the spectacular weather means that DIY, garden furniture and spring fashion lines will have received a welcome boost after a tough start to the year,” it said.
Official figures showed a strong rebound in February from a weak January.
The BRC’s March survey, published on Tuesday, will show whether the recent strong momentum in consumer spending will be maintained. It reported a robust 3.3 per cent year-on-year increase in like-for-like sales in February, but some analysts think life will get rougher for consumers as growth in real household disposable income remains weak.
Average household disposable wealth has fallen compared to strong growth in the last two years, according to a survey, also to be published on Tuesday. KDB, data marketing group, found the average household’s disposable wealth was £38,929 in the six months to March, down from £40,341 a year ago.
The survey found that this was the second time in 12 months that disposable wealth had fallen below £40,000. It attributed the drop to falls in savings rates, a faster rise in mortgage advances than house price growth and rising levels of household equity release.