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Clothing drives seven-year sales high

Retailers have had the best October for seven years, with like-for-like sales up 3.8% on a year ago.

Total retail sales in October rose 5.9% in October compared with a 0.1% decline in October 2008, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) – KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

The like-for-like figure compares with a 2.2% drop in October 2008 when the collapse of the banking market impacted shopper confidence.

Clothing and footwear sales rose on September but the comparison is versus a weak October 2008.

Clothing

Clothing sales growth in October was the best since April, although many clothing retailers were impacted by the mild weather against a cold October 2008. Winter coats, fleeces, heavier knitwear and warm accessories struggled.

Kidswear showed good growth and the fall of Halloween on the Saturday of half-term boosted fancy-dress sales.

Womenswear was “just up” on a year ago, according to the BRC, with dresses, light knitwear and long cardigans strong drivers of sales. Menswear was down on a year ago, but by less than in September.

Footwear

Footwear sales were the best since April, balanced across adult’s and kid’s footwear. Widespread mid-season Sales drove trade and the mild weather meant a slow start for autumn ranges.

Ankle boots, casual and sports shoes were stronger performers than high-leg boots. Kid’s footwear slowed after a good September. The middle market struggled in comparison with premium and value footwear ranges.

Department stores

Department stores had a good month, aided by mid-season Sales and promotions. Footfall was stronger on autumnal day and winter ranges were hit by the mild weather.

Internet

Internet, mail order and phone sales rose 18% year-on-year in the month, versus an 11.9% rise in September.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said the results were “encouraging” and the best like-for-like and total sales growth since October 2002. However, he warned that they should be compared with “dreadful” figures last year when the last three months of the year were negative.

“Most non-food sectors were well up on last year,” said Robertson. “Children’s clothing, for example, received a big boost from half-term spending and Halloween.”

He added: “With less than 50 days to go before Christmas, retailers will be hoping improved consumer confidence will be sustained during the festive period and beyond. Shops have already started to battle it out for customers with a string of promotions and discounts.”

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