Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Joy on High Streets as London Sets the Pace

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Joy on High Streets as London Sets the Pace

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE PADGHAM

LONDON is bucking the national trend of falling High Street sales, with retail spending in the capital running well ahead of last year.

Thanks to bumper City bonuses, a resurgent housing market and an increase in tourists and day-trippers, sales were up an impressive 5.5% in March on a year earlier, according to figures today from the London Retail Consortium.

That compares with a 1.4% fall nationally, and marks the fifth consecutive month London has outperformed the rest of the UK. It indicates that the West End is back at full strength after last year's July bombings.

The LRC said foreign and UK visitor numbers increased in March, boosting footfall by 5%. Clothing and footwear sales varied but many designer ranges flew off the shelves.

Stores with winter lines still in stock benefited from the cold weather, while spring fashions did better in the warmer final week.

LRC director Kevin Hawkins said: "The welcome recovery in central London's performance continues, making up for the serious reverses which retailers experienced for much of last year." But he added that with costs rising much faster than inflation, profit margins remained under pressure.

Helen Dickinson at accountants KPMG also sounded a note of caution, saying the figures were flattered by a weak March last year. "The results have also benefited from changes in the timing of some promotional activity in the run-up to Easter," she said.

"A truer picture of the underlying trend will only be seen once we can assess March and April's figures together."

Retail analysts FootFall yesterday revealed that while all retailers had a disappointing Easter, those in London suffered much less. The number of shoppers in the capital across the bank holiday weekend was down 3.8% on a year ago against 7.5% nationally.

Dan Bridgett of the London Chamber-of Commerce said: "The extent to which London is outrunning the rest of the UK is eye-popping. …

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