May 9 - British retail sales posted their biggest fall in more than a year in April. Wet weather was blamed for putting off shoppers, but growth in the number of people placed in permanent jobs also slowed, raising the risk of another quarter of economic contraction. Joanna Partridge reports.
Blame it on the rain. British retail sales dropped last month, the wettest April since records began. The British Retail Consortium says sales at established stores fell by over 3% year-on-year - they had been expected to rise by half a percent. SOUNDBITE: Theo Buck, Passer-by, saying (English): "I haven't bought any shorts or anything yet." SOUNDBITE: Sylvia Bridger, Passer-by, saying (English): "I've still been shopping in the indoor malls, really." SOUNDBITE: Min Ong, Passer-by, saying (English): "Actually I do a lot of my shopping online so it doesn't really affect me." Stephen Robertson, BRC Director General, says sales were affected more by the rain than recession. SOUNDBITE: Stephen Robertson, BRC Director General, saying (English): "It's up against a very strong April last year where we had the whole of Easter in it. But there's no doubt about it, the damp weather really has scared off customers, particularly for those people trying to sell spring or summer ranges in clothing, or DIY stores that are trying to present barbecues, lawnmowers etc." If the wet weather dampened sales of seasonal items, it did help online sales, which were up 9% year-on-year. Britain's third-largest grocer, J Sainsbury, has also said it will slow its expansion rate, due to a prolonged period of sluggish consumer spending. But the April figures, the weakest since March 2011, add to the gloomy economic picture in the UK. The growth of the number of people placed in permanent jobs in Britain also slowed. The country has slipped back into recession and April surveys of purchasing managers showed slower growth in services, manufacturing and construction. All this data is leading to fears of the economy contracting again in the second quarter. Retailers and other businesses are now hoping to get a boost from summer events like the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. Joanna Partridge, Reuters