The summer heatwave has rewarded retailers who have seasonally appropriate product in stock, say industry leaders, but retailers are still battling lower footfall and consumer spending overall.
The Met Office has reported that average daytime temperatures in June matched those of the heatwave of 1976 and that it was the fourth sunniest June on record. Temperatures have reached 30 degrees in large parts of the UK over the last week, and the Met Office forecasts that fine weather is likely to dominate at least until the end of July.
One department store source said shoppers caught the summer bug only recently: “The penny dropped with the public last week and everybody finally got that this weather is here to stay. Nobody has got the right clothes and [sales] went mad.”
One CEO of a womenswear retailer noted a pick-up in sales thanks to the right season being stocked at the right time as the heatwave rolled in: “We are definitely seeing a positive impact when the sun comes out. We are selling across the board.
“I think it’s about having the relevant product offer for the weather, such as dresses and low tops.”
A spokeman for Clarks said: “The heatwave has definitely increased the number of customers coming into our stores to buy a new pair of sandals. Our sandals and our range of summer shoes have been our best-performing category in the UK over the last two weeks.”
Fat Face chief executive Anthony Thompson said the lifestyle retailer had only held a relatively limited mid-season Sale compared with other high street brands, and reported full-price summer stock is selling well.
“There’s a psychological impact on sales and everyone can see this is going to be golden summer,” he said. “If people can see the weather is good for two or three weeks, they invest in clothes that last. Not everything is throwaway fashion.”
He added: “When the sun comes out like this, the business is stronger, but [the weather] should be the icing on the cake, you can’t rely on the weather to rescue your business.”
Despite the sustained hot weather, sales of summer clothing had initially not matched the temperatures.
The British Retail Consortium’s retail sales monitor showed that over the three months to 31 May, sales of non-food items declined by 3% on a total basis, and 4.1% on a like-for-like basis.
The latest high street sales tracker from BDO also indicated that fashion sales had fallen 8% in the week to 24 June.
One chief executive of a lifestyle retailer said the hot weather had not changed underlying customer behaviour: “When the weather first turned, we got a lift, but it settled back down and actually went quite quiet through June.
“When we did go on Sale, it was phenomenal, which tells me that people buy what they need, and then top it up with Sale items. It’s a continuation of people thinking twice [before buying] and planning more sensibly now.”
One footwear retailer told Drapers the heat and the World Cup, which started on 14 June, had led to a predictable change in shopping behaviour: “It’s been quite spectacular in terms of the heatwave – and with that and the World Cup people are spending their money in other places.
“[It is] a little bit tougher than we expected out there and when the weather is extremely hot or cold it does cause retailers problems, but there is always going to be weather.”
Touker Suleyman, owner of Hawes & Curtis, said the weather had a limited impact on sales, and the key factor for the menswear retailer was an improvement in its core product offer in 2018: “For us we have had a brilliant six months, and I keep saying to my team it’s about product, product and product. It’s not about price, or the weather.”