UK like-for-like retail sales fell 0.9% in July and footwear and clothing sales fell back further against last year according to the British Retail Consortium.
The BRC said that consumer confidence levels had hit record lows and that within clothing, core basics, kidswear and clearance items had sold best. The BRC said that this reflected a switch in consumer attitude towards fashion which is increasingly seen as a discretionary purchase amidst difficult times.
Womenswear was slightly better than menswear while premium and designer lines maintained its strength for some retailers. Middle-market ranges remained more difficult.
Footwear sales worsened to just below their July 2007 level. Women's footwear sales held up better than men's and children's footwear but this was largely driven by discounting. The BRC said there had been some early interest in autumn ranges, particularly on smart black shoes for work. The squeeze on discretionary spending continued to favour value ranges, though premium designer ranges still gave gains for some.
For department stores there were some good clearance Sales in clothing and footwear but underlying trade remained difficult.
Mail order retailers recorded disappointing sales with a slow start to some new season catalogues. Clothing and footwear sales were mixed.
British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: "Four of the last five months have now seen negative like-for-like annual sales growth and in July every sector except food recorded falls. Frivolous shopping is off the agenda as most customers concentrate on value and durability and there are few signs the slowdown has yet bottomed out. This is a good time for consumers to take advantage of the wide range of discounts and promotions available to them."