Sep 7, 2018
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Fashion flounders in August as UK shoppers say 'no thanks'

Sep 7, 2018

Another day, another depressing report about physical retail sales this summer. The latest news comes from BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) for August and showed shoppers have “abandoned” the high street in recent weeks with the month “being one of the worst on record” for sales. 

It was a bad month for fashion shopping in the UK

And the news for the fashion sector was bad too. It saw its worst August since 2015, with sales down in-store in every week last month and down by more than 3% in three of those weeks.

With the worst August decline for three years, UK high-street sales overall fell 2.7%, the seventh monthly drop in a row on a like-for-like basis. And it's also almost a year since like-for-like sales managed to edge over a 1% increase.

BDO said that as shoppers “took a holiday from the high street”, total in-store like-for-like sales fell in every week of August starting with a 3.9% fall in the first week. Sales continued to fall in week two (down 2.9%) and three (down 2.8%), before rallying slightly with the onset of the bank holiday weekend (down ‘only’ 1.1% for the last week).

Not that fashion was the worst performing sector. Homewares stores saw sales down 6.1% year-on-year in August from a base of +1.9% for August 2017.

Lifestyle was the only sector to avoid a fall in year-on-year growth, “flatlining at 0%”, we’re told.

But did online sales manage to take up the slack? Well, they certainly rose, with a 13.7% increase, compared to an 18.3% rise a year ago. The growth was described as “sluggish” by BDO, being the lowest August result since 2015 and the third lowest result in 2018 overall.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “The high street hasn’t seen any notable growth since October last year. With inflation continuing to bite on the weekly shop and the heatwave driving discretionary spending to bars and entertaining, there is even less disposable income heading to the high street.

“There are signs that retailer margins are being protected through tighter management of stock levels and shortening discount periods. However, next month is going to be an important bellwether for retailers leading into the crucial last quarter of the calendar year.”

She also said that while consumers remain cautious, there will still be winners as well as losers in the retail sector and added that “with the holiday season over and most now returning to work, spending levels in the next six to eight weeks will quickly identify those retailers that have created a formula for success.”

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