High street fashion sales have suffered their steepest decline since the credit crunch in 2008, accountancy firm BDO has reported.
Like-for-like fashion sales fell by 9.2% year on year in April – the steepest drop since November 2008. Across all retail sectors, including homewares, sales were down 6.1%.
It comes after Next on Wednesday lowered its full-price sales guidance for the full year and warned that weak trading over the past six weeks may point to weaker underlying demand for clothing and a wider slowdown in consumer spending.
“With sluggish consumer spending and the cold recent months, retailers will undoubtedly be feeling that everything is against them,” said Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO.
However, she warned retailers not to rely too heavily on discounting to kick-start sales: “Retailers need to be confident in their product offer, hold their nerve as the weather warms up, and be selective and strategic about promotions,” she argued.
“Operating margins have already been squeezed this year through additional costs such as the national living wage and the adverse impact of a weak pound, and heavy discounting will only erode margins further.”
BDO also said the shift to online shopping had continued, and ecommerce sales were up 16.4% year on year.