While still positive growth, the “subdued performance” fell significantly below the three (+7.5%), six (+7.1%) and 12- (+10.2%) month rolling averages. Breaking it down further, online-only retailers saw marginally better results – growing +8.9% versus multichannel retailers’ +5%.
Across the sectors the impact of a late Easter was most apparent in home and garden, which saw its strong growth trajectory from earlier in the year slow to just +1.6% YoY.
Meanwhile despite a strong performance in footwear (+16.7%), the clothing sector continued its five-month run of single digit growth (+3.7%), and both electricals and gifts saw sales plummet by -26% and -22.1% respectively.
Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement at Capgemini, said: “March 19 growth at 5% may seem slow but we were up against a very strong March 18. More concerning is the overall position of clothing – which continued its five-month run of single digit growth (+3.7% for March 19).
“Many of the larger, often reliably robust, retailers also recorded low single-digit growth. Closing out Q1, clothing now stands at 2.6% growth, significantly lower than last year’s 13.9% growth.”
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, added: “While on the surface of it +5% growth may not seem very positive, there are actually two possible interpretations. On the one hand it looks bad as it’s below the 3-, 6- and 12-month rolling averages of +7.5%, +7.1% and +10.2% respectively; it’s also the lowest of the first quarter of 2019.
“On the other hand, this growth is against a strong base from March 2018, which featured Easter (home and garden online sales were down -15% in the equivalent week in March this year) and freezing temperatures that kept people away from high streets and boosted online sales in 2018.”