February - an 'average month' for UK clothing sales

Tuesday, 11 March 2014
UK retail sales dropped during the month of February, for the first time since last year April, as heavy rainfall caused a number of shoppers to stay in, according to the latest retail sales monitor data published by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG.

Women's wear sales 'sluggish'

The BRC noted that February was an 'average month' for clothing sales, with women's wear sales remaining 'sluggish'. Within the women's wear apparel sector, casual and basic items were the most wanted during the month. However, fashion retailers who still had large stocks of knitwear and outerwear had to entice customers with discounting to purchase the warmer items during a period of unseasonably mild weather.

Children's wear did not do well in February, according to the retail sales monitor, with some retailers highlight that with the wet weather, "parents avoided taking their children shopping," unless it was for needed items such as school shoes. Men's footwear, on the other hand was the best-performing division during the month of February across all segments, with a strong demand for boots.

Total retail sales were down 1 percent on a like for like basis from February 2013, when they had grown 2.7 percent compared to 2012. The dip in sales comes after a strong performance in January, which saw like for like sales grow by 3.9 percent. The 3-month average total growth for retail sales, according to the sales monitor was 2.8 percent, which falls in accordance with the BRC's 12 month pattern that now stands at 2.7 percent.

UK retail sales slow down during February

Helen Dickinson, director general at the BRC commented: "Our sales figures for February show a slower pace of growth in the retail industry than in previous months, underlining that the consumer-led recovery is still developing. However, this slower growth might have been expected in some ways, given the record sales figures we saw in January and the strong results that we are comparing against from last year."

The country has been struck with the wettest winter weather since 1910, when the records first began, with areas of southern Britain being hit with double the amount of average rainfall during the month of February, which affected like for like retail sales on the high street in particular. Department stores, on the other hand seemed to have benefited from the damp weather, as shoppers were more likely to visit a protected shopping area during the month to stay dry.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 14.3 percent in February compared to a year before, which saw a 12.3 percent increase. The BRC noted the unusual wet weather helped the online sales of non-food items increase to the disadvantage of the high street. Without the boost from online sales, apparel, footwear and other non-food sales would have declined in February.

David McCorquodale, head of retail, KPMG, said: "February saw a hiatus on the high street, with online sales soaring while in store sales stalled. There's no doubt inclement weather exacerbated this trend, but it certainly underscores the importance of having a sophisticated online operation. However overall sales were pretty flat, which serves as a reminder that recovery is far from certain. Retailers need the Government to deliver measures in the forthcoming Budget which will give shoppers more pounds in their pocket, but more importantly imbue them with the confidence to spend them."

Photos: Flickr

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