UK clothing sales experienced the deepest decline since September last month, with shoppers shunning many spring collections as a result of the unsettled weather.
The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor however reports branded clothing was left relatively unscathed, although promotions typically drove sales. Strong sportswear sales underlined the continued trend towards lifestyle-conscious shopping.
Men’s clothing was the best performing segment in the fashion category in May, while womenswear and kidswear both declined.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Footwear and fashion sales wilted against strong performances last year as consumers put off the summer wardrobe refresh as they waited for the unseasonably cool May weather to improve.
“Many retailers stretched out summer Sales events and deepened discounts in order to try and entice customers through the door.”
Footwear sales also recorded their worst decline since September last month, despite wellingtons and boots experiencing stronger demand than usual for this time of year. Retailers said that shoppers were holding off the purchase of summer footwear and suggested there may be pent-up demand in the coming months.
Online clothing and footwear sales experienced double-digit growth during the month, but this was driven by promotions rather than seasonal impulse buys. The monitor found that the online growth was not enough to carry total UK fashion sales into positive territory against last year’s performance.
Online clothing penetration increased to 24.9% in May, up from 22.4% for the same period last year, while footwear was 25.8%, up from 25.1%.
Overall, UK retail sales were flat on a like-for-like basis compared with May 2014, boosted by the furniture sector in particular.
McCorquodale added: “Looking ahead June may be a tough month of comparables for some with the start of the 2014 World Cup last year boosting sales in certain areas.
“However, with consumer confidence nearing pre-crisis positivity, retailers will be hoping that the improving job market, low inflation rates along with a dollop of summer sunshine will provide a welcome boost.”