Clothing and footwear sales slowed in October, according to the latest BRC figures, as uncertainty over job losses prompted shoppers to cut back on their discretionary spend.
Overall, UK retail sales values were up 0.8% on a like-for-like basis from October 2009, when sales had risen 3.8%. However, the increase was partly driven by inflation in food prices.
The BRC does not split out figures for clothing but said womenswear was hit particularly hard, and lagged behind menswear and childrenswear. The latter two both showed growth – albeit less than in September and August.
By contrast, women’s footwear was the strongest performing footwear category, driven by on-trend boots of all lengths. Overall footwear sales slowed “sharply” after a strong September.
The BRC said trade had been “dampened” by consumer caution but that it had also been helped by the onset of cold weather and an increase in sales of clothing for Halloween costumes.
“People [were] looking for good deals and promotions and thinking twice before committing to larger purchases. Colder weather later in the month drove outerwear, knitwear, warm accessories and hosiery. Handbags showed gains for some,” the BRC said.
“[In footwear] women’s held up best, helped by boots, while men’s and children’s showed smaller gains. Cold weather and fashion trends drove boot sales, with ankle boots very popular, but longer length also selling well.
“Shoe sales suffered and casual were often preferred to formal. Consumer caution hit sales, despite various promotions and discounts to attract customers looking out for good deals. Half-term provided some help for children’s, but with strong competition between supermarkets and specialists persisting.”
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Unfortunately it’s more of the same for hard-pressed retailers, with weak consumer confidence continuing to undermine growth.
“It’s a struggle to convince wary consumers to part with their money. When you factor in inflation, the modest rise in total non-food sales is actually a real-terms decrease.
“Tough trading conditions are unlikely to change in coming months. Our BRC Nielsen Consumer Confidence Survey shows 84% of consumers think the economy is still in recession, while 26% say they have no spare cash. Retailers will be hoping those concerns are at least put on hold for Christmas.”
Non-food purchases from home-shopping retailers increased 12.8% on last year, but the rate of growth had slowed.