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Discounts help clothing sales pick up for January

Sales of womenswear picked up in January after the December snow thawed but footwear sales fell back after coming up against strong comparatives with January last year.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, UK retail like-for-like sales values across all sectors grew by 2.3% in January compared to the same month a year ago when sales had fallen 0.7% when snow impacted most of the country. On a total basis, sales were up 4.2% against a 1.2% increase in January 2010.

The figures reflect a surge in demand in January after the country came to a standstill during the snow in December and the rush to buy larger ticket items ahead of the rise in VAT to 20% on January 4.

Over the three months November to January like-for-like non-food sales increased by 0.4, with total non-food sales growing by 1.9%.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “On the surface, this is the best sales growth since last March, but that’s not the whole story. Comparisons are with a feeble, snow-hit performance a year ago. Growth this January was driven by a relatively short but strong burst of non-food buying early in the month.”

Footwear

Despite promotions and clearance discounts helping to attract customers looking for a good deal, sales growth slowed and footwear showed the smallest year-on-year gain since July.  Footwear was the top performing retail category in January 2010 - when the snowy weather hit the country - and also in December 2010 - again during the severe weather, however for this January it had dropped to fourth.

Women’s footwear picked up after lagging in December; however men’s and kids’ footwear fell back below their level a year earlier after two months of gains. Boots remained strong – helped by the cold weather and fashion trends. Flat boots, shearling and ankle styles also proved popular.

Some retailers noted early interest in spring 11 formal styles, particularly plain styles which could be worn for work and leisure. Casual shoes generally held up best throughout the month.

Clothing

Sales growth picked up in January after wintry weather kept shoppers indoors throughout December. Clearance events and pent-up demand led to gains for many clothing retailers, particularly in the first week of the year. Sales of outerwear, knitwear, warm accessories and hosiery were also helped by the cold weather.

In clearance Sales handbags and jewellery did well and dresses and longer cardigans were helped by trends. People were on the lookout for good deals and promotions as consumers remained cautious.

Kidswear was seen as an essential purchase, especially in the bad weather and so it held up better than both menswear and womenswear.

Department Stores

Sales started strongly at the beginning of the month after pent-up demand throughout December and some consumers wanting to shop before the VAT increase came in. Later on in the month sales slowed as consumers became more careful in their purchasing with uncertainty about jobs and income. Sales of clothing, footwear and accessories were helped by the cold weather.

Internet and mail order

Internet and mail order sales growth fell back after rising in November and December, helped then by shoppers inability to visit stores during the snow. Sales grew by 12.3% after a growth of 18% in December.Online clearance Sales were very popular with sales spread throughout the month.

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