Fashion struggles as lifestyle retail sales improve in September

September's BDO High Street Sales Tracker fell by -2.8 per cent.

Despite positive LFL sales growth for the homeware and lifestyle sectors, in-store sales of fashion goods performed poorly this month, dragging total sales into the negative, as warmer weather ensured discount savvy consumers continued to forgo seasonal updates of their wardrobes.

The year-to-date has not seen positive monthly total sales growth since January 2016. While online has been looked to as the growth area, non-store growth slowed in September.

Overall footfall was up in every week of the month except for the last (-2.4 per cent) as autumn weather finally made an appearance. Footfall was also up on the high street for every week except week 39 (-2.4 per cent). A moderate increase in footfall at retail parks was also evident for the first three weeks of September, dipping into the negative in week 39 (-0.5 per cent).

However, footfall across UK shopping centres saw footfall down in every week, reaching a low of -4.1 per cent in week 39.

Homeware was the star performer for the third month in succession, up by +8.9 per cent in September. Homeware has been in positive territory in seven of the nine months of the year so far. Positive in every week of September, the high came in week 37 (+16.43 per cent), as consumers continued to demonstrate demand for furniture and soft furnishings.

Non-store LFL sales were up by +12.6 per cent in September, the worst performance in the year-to-date and the worst performance since December 2015 (+7.5 per cent). Despite the drop in growth this month, online sales were positive in three of the four weeks of the month, breaching the 20 per cent threshold in week 37 (+22.03 per cent). However, in week 38 LFLs dropped into the negative (-1.04 per cent) for the first time since the second week of December 2015 (-5.22 per cent).

The CBI’s retail sales balance dropped by -8.0 per cent in September, although some lines evidenced growth. In-store purchases of homeware and lifestyle goods performed well.

GfK reported that consumer confidence in September returned to pre-Brexit levels. It is fashion that continues to see the deepest sales declines. The ONS reported that retail spending in the UK grew by four per cent, while sales of clothing and footwear in-store and online declined by four per cent.

BDO retail and wholesale head Sophie Michael said September was always going to be tough when compared against a strong September 2015 (up 2.8 per cent), but retailers should
take the erratic weather as a lesson in the importance of flexibility.
She said: "When you look at individual performances, it doesn’t take long to spot who has innovated and adapted their supply chains to be able to cope with unseasonal weather.
"And it’s not just the temperature that is in flux; in order to maintain a strong performance,
retailers should ensure that they are attuned to the changing demands of consumers and
navigating future challenges presented by Brexit. Those that can remain flexible, and adapt
quickly, will not only stand the best chance of success but will also be well placed to grab the
opportunities that will no doubt present themselves in these uncertain times."

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