Strong fashion retail sales stand out during March

Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Although total British retail sales were down 1.7 percent last month on a like-for-like basis from March 2013, the fashion categories showed 'record growth', according to the latest data released today by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG. The fashion divisions, which include clothing and footwear were the 'outstanding winners' in terms of retail sales, as the mild weather helped push sales of Spring/Summer collections in contrast to March 2013, when fashion sales dropped as cold weather led to the worst performance of the year.

The BRC states that a successful Mother's Day build-up was a “key performance driver” and helped pave the way for strong women's wear sales. There was a strong demand for new collections, which were sold at full price, helping fashion retailers restore margins. “This bodes well as Easter is still to come in April,” adds the BRC.

"Fashion has performed particularly well"

Helen Dickinson, director general at the BRC commented: “These sales figures are stronger than might have been expected given the fact that Easter has fallen so late this year. Fashion has performed particularly well. Retailers have worked hard to create popular new collections, and have been rewarded with strong demand for women’s clothing and footwear in particular. This improves on the slow start to the season last year when shoppers were more reluctant to spruce up their wardrobes.”

The footwear division was the “best performing category” in March, as women's footwear witnessed the strongest growth, followed by children's. The BRC points out that this was achieved without the help of promotional events for the majority of retailers, who only began their mid-season sale in April.

Seasonal items such as flat shoes, ballerinas pumps, and sandals reported the strongest growth, while boot sales declined. In the children's division, school shoes were high in demand, as well as canvasses and sandals.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: “On face value retail sales in March appear flat, but in fact the figures are distorted by the timing of Easter, which fell in March last year boosting sales and making direct comparisons difficult.” “Putting Easter distortions aside, the overall picture looks encouraging. The long term trend shows that sales are moving in a positive direction, albeit it at a rate of 2.1 percent which is just above inflation. Sales of clothing and footwear fared well this month, helped by favourable weather. This is a very different picture to last year when cold weather depressed sales and fashion retailers had a dismal month.

“Looking ahead, the Easter effect and the school holidays should deliver a healthy boost to sales in April. If the weather is fine, shoppers will head to the high street to enjoy the bank holiday break, helping sales of spring ranges, home accessories and children’s clothing.”

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