July sales figures were disappointing for retailers, including garden centres, latest research shows.
BDO’s July High Street Sales Tracker shows like-for-like sales at mid-tier retailers were down 2.9 per cent year-on-year; the sharpest fall in retail sales since October 2011.
Concerns over the rising cost of living combined with low wage inflation weighed hard on consumers’ pockets.
Homewares saw the biggest decline, with a drop of 13 per cent on the same period last year. A combination of slow garden furniture sales due to poor weather and reluctance among consumers to splash out on big ticket items hit the sector hard, said BDP.
BDO retail and wholesale national head Don Williams said: "With consumers increasingly value-conscious it is still a challenging climate for retailers, and the rain in early July did not help. But it is dangerous to just blame the weather. There are retailers, particularly in the discounting space, who are bucking this trend through flexible and responsive supply chains. The quicker you can get your products to market, the louder you will hear tills ring. Many fashion stores were caught out when, after weeks of rain, Britain basked in temperatures of 30 degrees. Getting your supply chain right is the new retail battleground and those who achieve flexibility and agility will survive and prosper."
He added: "Sales through non-store channels again brought some cheer to retailers, with an uplift of 24.9 per cent year-on-year. Retailers are continuing to improve their online environment which is clearly reflected in the figures. This investment is critical if retailers are to keep up with the changing demands of consumers and offer them the products that they want in a way that is most convenient to them."
British Retail Consortium figures for July show UK retail sales values were up 0.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis from July 2011, when they were up 0.6 per cent on the previous year. On a total basis, sales were up 2.0 per cent, against a 2.5 per cent rise in July 2011.
The BRC said cool, wet weather hit outdoor DIY and gardening, saying; "conditions remained challenging for many. A warmer end to the month helped support outdoor furniture, barbecues and gardening equipment, but these were often promotion-led."
Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said: "July was disappointing. It started OK but we ended 13 per cent down. The weather has played an even bigger part than normal and it’s the first year overall garden centre turnover and the plants side have had no direct comparison. We’ll pull back the odd percentage point but will go into Christmas 10 per cent down."
Buckingham Nurseries plant publicity manager Chris Day said: "It’s been a little bit quiet and some recent weather has been horrendous. There’s been a knock-on effect of the Olympics and August trade is quiet anyway. But we’ve had a few garden project customers coming in."