An early Easter and falling food inflation meant food sales dipped in April compared to a year ago but the picture was brighter for the past three months.

Food sales rose by 0.9% on a like-for-like basis between February and April, or by 2.9% in value terms, according to new data from the British Retail Consortium. Non-food like-for-like sales were up 2.1% over the same period.

"[In March] grocery retail benefited from the early Easter and therefore slower growth in April is to be expected,” said IGD chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch.

“Low food inflation, coupled with heavy promotional activity, also affected performance.”

BRC director general Stephen Robertson added: "Sales growth held up but retailers are having to work harder to maintain it. They’re running more promotions and discounts, especially on big-ticket items, and sending out more email marketing and brochures to alert potential shoppers."

Robertson warned that the ongoing political uncertainty following last week’s inconclusive general election was damaging consumer confidence.

“There’s no question customers are more willing to spend than 12 months ago but still nervous,” he said.

“People need to know how a new Government’s moves to tackle the deficit will affect their incomes and jobs. Even if the measures are tough, knowing what they are could be better than the current uncertainty.”

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Retail Prices: Fruit, veg and alcohol price rises cause 0.8% inflation (1 May 2010)
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