Fashion sales were in positive territory for the first time in 10 months in March as milder weather and discounting tempted shoppers to buy into spring ranges.
However like-for-like retail sales fell back 1.2% and total retail sales rose 0.6% for the five weeks ended April 4, according to the British Retail Consortium KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
Footwear sales also showed good growth in March, posting the best year-on-year increase since May 2008.
“A slight air of pre-spring optimism tempted customers to buy new-season clothing and women’s footwear.”
BRC director general Stephen Robertson
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that gains in fashion sales had been led by womenswear and kidswear, and that menswear sales remained well down on a year ago. Suits and shirts in particular struggled.
Women’s footwear showed gains but men’s and kid’s footwear were down on last year. Sandals and summer casuals were the best performers and smart footwear for work held up. Value lines performed strongly but premium designer ranges also showed gains for some retailers.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “March this year didn’t include Easter but it did benefit from some good weather, compared with last year’s cold and snowy conditions, giving sales growth a minor boost. But there were sharp contrasts between sectors. A slight air of pre-spring optimism tempted customers to buy new-season clothing and women’s footwear.”
However he added: “This is unlikely to be the basis of sustained improvement. Customers are still worried about jobs and their own finances - so they’re keeping spending under tight control. We’ve now seen negative like-for-like sales growth in nine of the past 10 months. A revival in sales of big-ticket items would indicate confidence is coming back but, despite the discounts, furniture sales were the worst for at least nine years.”