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August sales hit by poor weather

Like-for-like retail sales fell 1% in August. Clothing sales remained poor but improved on June and July's figures according to the British Retail Consortium.

Total retail sales were up 1.4% during the month which was hampered by wet and dull weather.

The BRC said that fashion sales were below their year-earlier level but better than the falls in the previous two months. However clothing sales were often clearance driven.

Kidswear and core basic styles held up better than general adults clothing. Womenswear was slightly better than menswear, with new autumn transitional product showing gains for some. Knitwear, jackets and jeans were popular on colder days while designer fashion continued to outperform.

After food sales, footwear was the only retail sub-category to show positive like-for-like growth on August 2007 but this improvement was marginal. This growth was driven primarily by back-to-school sales of kid's footwear. Women's footwear was just up on last August, similar the performance the category experience in July this year.

The BRC said that poor weather had led to some interest in autumn ranges of footwear and boots and that deeper discounting on sandals failed to tempt shoppers. Men's footwear sales fell below their year earlier level. Overall value ranges and premium lines showed gains for some retailers.

Trade remained difficult for department stores despite deeper discounting and more promotions. However, designer fashion held up for some.

Mail order experienced mixed sales during the month.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "Miserable weather washed out hopes of a summer boost for retailers already suffering the slowdown. Annual like-for-like sales fell in five of the last six months, the first time this has happened since 2005. Even food sales growth slowed as customers focused even more on value. Footwear was the only other sector where sales rose, boosted by children's shoe sales."

Roberston added: "Prospects for customers and retailers are inextricable linked. Helping retailers keep prices down by cutting regulatory costs is the best way the Government can assist hard-pressed customers. It must think again on business rate supplements and empty property rates relief and consider carefully where the minimum wage goes next."

Click here to compare the BRC's July monitor to this month's data.

Is the wet September helping to drive sales of autumn ranges? Vote in our poll on the right.

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