The timing of Easter and the late arrival of spring impacted April retail sales in the UK, but a late rally secured a “respectable” month’s trading, according to figures released today (8 May).

Like-for-like sales by value were down 2.2% on last April, the Retail Sales Monitor from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG showed. Total sales fell 0.6%, but sales for the three-month February to April period – which strips out the impact of the timing of Easter – were up 2.6%.

“On the surface these are really poor figures, but they’re hiding another respectable month,” said Helen Dickinson, BRC director general.

“Taking away the Easter distortion, this was actually a better month than March, especially for non-food sales.

“Fashion sales were weak early in the month but that was almost entirely made up later when signs of spring arrived.”

Non-food online sales rose 8.3% in the month, with Dickinson highlighting a strong finish to the month, driven by seasonal clothing and footwear.

The month was characterised by high demand for summer accessories, with women’s and children’s wear impacted by the cold weather but reacting strongly to the later rise in temperatures, said Anne Alexandre, BRC senior analyst.

“With the sun out, demand bloomed for blouses, jerseys, shorts and skirts,” she added, making clothing the second best-performing non-food category in April, led by women’s wear.

Footwear was also affected by the early cold weather – women’s slippers were among the most popular items – but summer ranges of flat shoes, sandals and mules picked up towards the end of the month, when conversion rates from footfall to sales improved significantly.