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Clothing and footwear sales growth slips – BRC

Jun '09
UK retail sales values fell 0.8% on a like-for-like basis and rose only 0.8% on a total basis, from May 2008, when sales rose strongly in the sunny weather.

Clothing and footwear fell below last May's strong sales while big-ticket homewares and furniture sales remained difficult.

Non-food non-store sales (internet, mail-order and phone sales) in May were 7.6% higher than a year ago, thus following the month's slowdown in store sales.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said:
"Sun and bank holidays don't a recovery make. Warm weather and days-off produced some good performances for seasonal clothing and outdoor living products such as gardening goods and summer food and drink. But this May was always going to be difficult because the comparison is with strong May sales last year which delivered some of 2008's best growth figures.

"The three-month average is up slightly overall but still well down on the rates regularly seen before the slowdown really hit retail a year ago. Negative results show spring has been extremely difficult for most non-food retailers. The turnaround in sales of big-ticket items such as furniture and large electricals, which would indicate real change in the mood of customers, still eludes us.”

Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail, KPMG, said:
“These figures may look disappointing after last month's positive results were flattered by the timing of Easter, but extremely challenging market conditions - particularly for the non-food sectors - continue. Stronger sales last year - May was the last month to report positive like-for-like growth in 2008 - also impacted this month's results. We might have expected better figures as, while there are consumers struggling financially due to actual, or the prospect of, job losses, there are also those with greater disposable income due to lower mortgage payments, easing inflation and lower fuel costs. It remains to be seen when those who have cash to spare will feel confident to start spending again.”

Sector performance (like-for-like sales) - by Joscelyne Hynard, Senior Analyst, BRC
Sales fell below last May's sun-driven levels, despite a good uplift in the second half of the month when hot sunny weekends together with further discounts and promotions brought shoppers out looking for summer clothes. Childrenswear held up better than adult's clothing, being seen as more essential, and helped by half-term. Summer dresses, T-shirts and casual tops, shorts and holidaywear were popular, but tailoring, knitwear and suits lagged. Fashion accessories held up, with sunglasses doing well for many.

Despite the sun-driven end-month uplift, sales fell back: women's, men's and children's all showed their worst year-on-year declines since April 2008. The fall was against a strong May last year when the weather was hotter for longer. Children's footwear was hardest hit, though against a very strong May 2008. The sunny days benefited sandals, canvas and casuals shoes but these sales were insufficient to offset difficult trade in the cooler first half of the month. The squeeze on discretionary spending continued to favour value ranges. Premium designer ranges still gave gains for some, but middle market remained challenging, with further discounting.

British Retail Consortium

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