British retail sales in March were the worst in 16 years according to a survey published Tuesday. Meanwhile a report on the housing market shows that activity is in the doldrums in almost all regions.
The British Retail Consortium
reports that UK retail sales values were down 1.9% on a total basis from March
2010, when sales had risen 6.6%, boosted by Good Friday and Easter Saturday
falling in the March trading period. On a like-for-like basis, sales were 3.5%
lower, against a 4.4% increase in March 2010.
Stephen Robertson, director general, British Retail Consortium, said: "This is the worst drop in total sales since we first collected these figures in 1995. Non-food retailers were particularly hard-hit. This is strong evidence of the pressure customers and traders are under. This year's later Easter is a factor but this fall goes way beyond anything that can be explained by that alone."
Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG, said: "The food sector suffered in the month due to Easter purchasing falling into March last year, thus impacting the overall results. However, beyond this the trend continues in a marked downward direction: non-food continues to struggle, with big-ticket and home-related sectors again being the hardest hit.
We have seen an emergence of new, lower spending patterns since the middle of January, which are currently continuing to trend downwards. Many retailers will not be able to sustain this ongoing weakness in demand beyond the short term and are hoping for some good news around the extended bank holiday period and a feel-good factor driven by the royal wedding. However, as disposable income continues to fall, without reducing saving or increasing borrowing – which would oppose current trends – this will not be possible."
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in its monthly survey of surveyors, says London is the only region where house prices are rising while areas in the North of England, Northern Ireland and Wales report sharp falls.
"The rather negative
outlook for property prices across the UK seems to better reflect the general
economy than the micro climate of London," said RICS
housing spokesperson, Ian Perry.
The survey was based on responses
from 259 surveyors who work as estate agents and found that nearly 60% of
surveyors reported no change in the prices of the properties they had sold.
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