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Clothing sales slow despite demand for autumn trends, says BRC

Demand for shearling boots helped to lift footwear sales in September although clothing sales slipped back in the month, according to the latest retail sales figures from the British Retail Consortium.

The figures show that the wet and cold start to autumn combined with demand for this season’s trends has boosted sales of boots, particularly ankle boots; while back-to-school promotions helped kidswear.

Clothing

Clothing sales slowed as consumers continued to show caution, with many looking for good deals and promotions. Menswear and kidswear dropped back following a good August; while womenswear improved slightly but is only marginally up on a year ago. Again, the cooler start to September led to a raise in sales of outerwear with coats, jackets and knitwear doing well.  Accessories sales were mixed, with sales of handbags and jewellery good for some.

Department stores

The new season and poor weather were also a boon for department stores, which have seen some uplift on clothing and footwear while other departments, such as big-ticket purchases, still suffering from consumer caution.

Retail sales values

Overall retail sale values, including food, grew by 0.5% on a like-for-like basis compared to September last year, when sales had risen by 2.8%. It marks the sixth months of low growth.

Internet

Internet sales proved a bright spot, with non-food, non-store shopping up by 19.1% on the previous September, reflecting an “increased promotional activity as well as demand for new autumn ranges”

‘Low growth’

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “Sales growth continues to be poor. We’ve now had six straight months of low growth thanks to persistently weak consumer confidence and worries about the future. What growth there was largely came from food with the performance helped by food inflation.

“With VAT higher than it was last year, and pushing up sales values, it’s an even worse performance than it looks. There is little evidence yet of major purchases being brought forward from 2011 to beat the coming VAT increase

 “Despite widespread discounting, sales of major items had the toughest time. It’s clear people are cautious and major spending is largely on hold.”  

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