Clothing and footwear sales continued to decline in February, with womenswear the hardest hit category, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
Sales in February for clothing and footwear retailers were worse than both January and December as non food sales weakened further despite continued promotions and discounts.
UK retail sales values were down 0.3% on a like-for-like basis, but on a total basis, however, sales were up 2.3% compared to February 2011.
Womenswear was once again the hardest hit sector for clothing retailers with sales continuing to fall. However men’s and kidswear continued to show gains compared to this time last year, although the pickup was smaller than seen in January.
With clearance Sales ending, consumer caution returned with consumers seeking out good deals and promotions alongside markdowns on winter clothing. Warmer accessories and smaller items such as tops were the main sales drivers rather than larger purchases of outerwear.
Due to the cold weather new spring 12 ranges had a slow start, however, for some the fresh colourful looks generated interest.
After a solid gain in December, the overall sales growth at footwear retailers slowed further. Women’s footwear showed a year-on-year decline but men’s and children’s footwear held up better.
Boots suffered with shoppers either having already bought them in earlier Sales or now feeling it was too late in the season to buy more. In order to clear autumn 11 stock further markdowns were needed.
With the weather still chilly new spring ranges were slow to shift and with consumers purse strings still tightly pulled value lines continued to be favoured, with single purchases of ‘multifunctional’ styles rather than several purchases for different occasions still a common tactic.
Sales at department stores remained slow for most with consumers cautious and still buying carefully, seeking out promotions and deals.
New season ranges helped drive some sales in the milder final week of the month but overall clothing and footwear sales were mixed.
Internet, mail order and phone
Non-food non-store sales growth slowed further after growing sharply in December. Sales were 9.9% up on a year ago, down from 11.3% in January and 18.5% in December and also below the 10.4% in February 2011.
Stephen Robertson, director general at the British Retail Consortium, said: ““Falling inflation has eased the squeeze on household finances and halted the slide in consumer confidence but that’s at risk from fuel price rises and Budget uncertainty. Unemployment is expected to rise further causing increased nervousness about job security, which is keeping confidence fragile. Any sense of improving optimism is not yet translating into more spending.
“Total sales growth is still below inflation, so overall customers are actually buying less than a year ago, while discounts are eating into margins.”
He added: “In this climate of continued caution, the Chancellor must use the Budget to hold back business costs, which will support jobs, growth and the much-needed consumer turnaround.”