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Clothing and footwear slump as wider retail grows

Clothing and footwear were the only retail categories to see falling sales last month, according to BRC/KPMG figures.

All retail categories were up 1.9% on a like-for-like basis in March, and 3.7% in total, but both clothing and footwear fell in the period because of “unseasonable weather”.

Although sales were not broken down for the two fashion categories, BRC/KPMG’s performance league table shows that footwear was the worst performer, with clothing the next in line. On a rolling 12-month basis, that means clothing is the third worst category overall, followed by furniture & flooring and home accessories.

Analysts noted that the decline was most pronounced in womenswear, although added that winter ranges had sold “best while they lasted”.

“Given the cold, there was no appetite for cropped trousers or even spring colours,” it added. However, new ranges that had been given particularly strong media coverage and publicity did well, as did some floral and striped prints. Nightwear performed relatively well.

Footwear suffered by being up against “very strong comparatives” from March 2012, although the cold also dented sales, with wellingtons and slippers the only lines to perform well.

KPMG’s head of retail David McCorquodale blamed the weather for the monthly performance. “Clothing and footwear retailers had a dismal month as the cold weather froze sales, leaving summer skirts and sandals on the shelves,” he said. “This year-on-year fall is made worse by the strong sales seen last March when a veritable heatwave drove sales of spring stock.  Clothing and footwear retailers will be desperate for a change in weather in April.”

Of the wider retail sector, the BRC’s director general Helen Dickinson noted that “2013 has got off to an encouraging start”.

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