By Lea Pachta

UK retail sales values rose 4.4% on a like-for-like basis from March 2009, when sales had dropped 1.2%. Good Friday and Easter Saturday falling in the March trading period this year but in April 2009 boosted the year-on-year comparison. On a total basis, sales rose 6.6% against only 0.6% growth in March 2009.

Food sales were boosted by Easter purchasing falling in March this year but April last year. For non-food, consumer caution in the face of economic and political uncertainty favoured essentials and replacements over discretionary items. Clothing and footwear slowed but homewares improved, helped by mid-season sales and promotions.

Non-food non-store sales (internet, mail-order and phone sales) in March were 15.9% higher than a year ago compared with 15.5% in February. Sales were mixed and often discount and promotion driven.