Fashion was the poorest of all sectors on the high street in March with like-for-like sales down by 2.5%, according to BDO’s monthly tracker.
Seasonal discounting and soft launches failed to entice customers to spend and poor footfall figures suggested they have not been visiting stores either, said the report which tracks mid-market chains on the high street.
According to a report from customer rewards firm Nectar, households were more likely to spend their spare cash than save it in March since the same period last year, but this was more likely to benefit restaurants and leisure providers than high street shops. A quarter of respondents planned to rein in spending in the year ahead, with plans to spend less on clothing and accessories.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at accountancy firm BDO, said: “With a disappointing start to 2016, retailers were banking on the early Mother’s Day and Easter delivering positive year-on-year sales in March. Savvy consumers are waiting for promotions and discounts before they part with cash, and the absence of sales on the high street combined with heavy downpours over Easter did not encourage spending.
“It is now more important than ever for retailers to truly understand their customers and offer the right product mix and shopping experience combined with strategic promotions to entice shoppers into stores.
“With a weak pound and as the National Living Wage starts to take effect, retailers will have to think hard on which actions will best deliver consumer spending, while keeping an eye on the impact on margins and their operating costs.”