Clothing sales picked up slightly in July, helped by summer Sales and promotions but footwear sales slowed to record their weakest performance since August 2009.
Retail like-for-like sales across all sectors increased by just 0.5% in July as shoppers’ fear of looming public spending cuts took hold, according to the British Retail Consortium(BRC)-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. Total retail sales were up 2.6% on July 2009.
Non-food like-for-like sales rose 0.3% during May to July. Total non-food sales increased 2.3% during the same period.
BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “These are poor results for non-food retailing. The overriding factor is consumer confidence – it’s fallen recently, although people are still more confident than this time last year. Talk of public spending cuts is unsettling consumers and they are concentrating on essentials.”
Non-food sales made through online, mail order and via the phone, rose by 11.23%, the lowest growth since last August.
Clothing sales showed only marginal growth on June but the growth was against a decline in July 2009 when retailers were impacted by poor weather.
Menswear and womenswear clothing led the improvement in clothing sales while growth in kidswear was steady but weaker than earlier in the year. Clearance and promotions helped boost sales but often at the expense of margins, the BRC said.
Consumers were cautious about buying, driven by uncertainty about jobs and incomes. Many had already bought summer clothes during the good weather in May and June.
Dresses, tops and skirts, lightweight knits and swimwear sold well during the month. Bags, jewellery and hair accessories were popular, particularly in clearance Sales.
Overall sales growth in footwear slowed further in July, making the month the weakest since last August. Sales of men’s and kid’s shoes were down on last year for the first time since August 2009. Women’s footwear sales also slowed but continued to show a slight gain. Footwear sales were often discount-driven, with heavy mark-downs in clearance events to attract cautious shoppers.
Sales of casual shoes and sandals were boosted by the warm weather but formal styles struggled. Autumn ranges which had already been brought into store had seen good early interest in new styles.
Many department stores experienced a slower month as clearance Sales came to an end and consumer caution made expensive purchases more difficult. Footfall suffered on sunny days however shoppers returned when the weather cooled. Clothing and footwear saw some gains but this varied depending on the weather.