UK retail market is moving in the right direction, says Eversheds’ James Batham

James Batham, partner and head of retail at Eversheds, has commented on the latest retail sales figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS figures that were released show that sales volumes increased by 0.1 per cent from February 2014 to March 2014 and were up 4.2 per cent compared with the previous year.

Batham said that the continued growth in retail sales provides a further indication both that the UK retail market is moving in the right direction and that UK retailers and those operating here are able to take advantage.

With forecasters and retailers anticipating a drop in sales for March 2014, due to the Easter holidays falling in April, Batham said he expected to see similar if not better growth figures for April 2014.

‘The ONS has attributed the cold weather a year ago, the second coldest on record, as a key factor in the year-on-year rise. However, the impact of weekly earnings finally catching up with inflation, announced by the ONS last week, and the effect on consumer confidence should not be underestimated,’ he said.

Batham also commented on online sales, noting that they continued to experience substantial growth, up 7.1 per cent compared with March 2013, which he said ’further evidenc[es] the need for retailers to offer at least this purchasing channel, if not a full multi-channel platform’.

‘While a fully integrated multi-channel platform remains the current standard, total retailers who place the consumer at the heart of and builds their operation around them will be the future.’

Batham added: ‘It will also be interesting to see whether the rise of sterling and any predicted rise in interest rates next year will cause a step back. For now, however, the signs are positive.’