Clothing sales in December experienced their best performance since August, thanks to the cyber week at the start of the month and the end-of-season Sale after Boxing Day.
But across the whole retail industry like-for-like retail sales fell 0.4% in December against the same month in 2013, which was the worst performance since 2008. Total retail sales in December were up 1%, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said womenswear was the slowest segment, although partywear was particularly successful, while childrenswear was the best performing segment. Some retailers also reported that men’s sportswear and sport technology sold well.
The monitor found retailers typically entered the post-Christmas Sale period with more stock than last December but most were satisfied with the clearance.
The footwear industry experienced growth last month but relied on discounts at the start and end of the period to achieve it. Women’s footwear showed a decline, while men’s achieved good growth.
In December online clothing sales were the third lowest of 2014, against the previous December when sales were the second highest in 2013. The end-of-season Sale was particularly successful as stock levels were higher than the same time last year due to the mild autumn. Online penetration rates improved modestly from 18.8% to 19.5%.
Footwear was the third fastest growing online category in December and the penetration rate increased by more than three percentage points over the comparative period.
“The figures for December show that the British public were in a shopping mood with total sales up one percent on the same period last year,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson. “The Black Friday feeling continued into early December as customers bagged great deals on their Christmas gifts. The Boxing Day and end-of-season Sales also contributed to December’s positive performance.”
But David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “It’s now clear that Black Friday did pull festive sales forward into November, and this created a challenging lull in spending with consumers waiting for future bargains. This situation did not reverse until the week of Christmas. The launch of Boxing Day Sales mixed with new season full price stock saw some phenomenal spending, with fashion retailers achieving double digit growth.”
He added: “This difficult stop/start sales environment has been undoubtedly challenging, but most retailers have managed to achieve a flat, but respectable, sales performance this Christmas: time will tell on margins.”