May 19, 2011
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Royal wedding, warm weather boost UK retail sales

May 19, 2011

May 19 - British retail sales climbed more than expected in April, boosted by the extra holiday for the Royal Wedding and record temperatures, official data showed on Thursday.

UK retailer Next

The Office for National Statistics said sales volumes including automotive fuel rose 1.1 percent last month, well above analysts forecasts for an increase of 0.8 percent, and the biggest rise for a month of April since 2002.

Monthly growth was driven by clothing and food sales, which both rose at their fastest pace in years.

The ONS said the extra public holiday for the Royal Wedding on April 29, combined with the warmest April weather on record helped boost sales in these sectors.

The data chime with surveys from the CBI and British Retail Consortium earlier this month.

However, while the strong monthly rise in Thursday's figures will provide some relief to retailers who have been hard hit by weak consumer morale, underlying sales growth remained weak as Britons face squeezed household budgets.

Retail sales in the three months to April rose 0.2 percent. Excluding fuel, sales in the period were flat.

Economists expect consumer spending to be under pressure in 2011 as rising inflation and muted wage growth squeeze household incomes.

Retailers have already warned that they face tough times ahead. On Wednesday, babycare firm Mothercare announced it would close over a quarter of its British stores after a 69 percent plunge in profits over the last year.

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