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High street hopeful for cool bank holiday

Retailers and suppliers are hoping the end of the 2018 summer heatwave will lure shoppers back into stores ahead of the August bank holiday weekend.

Temperatures this weekend will “drop significantly”, The Met Office forecast, to 14°-15°C in the north and struggling to hit 20°C further south, in a mixture of sunshine and showers.

“It’s been a tough summer, but sales have picked up double digits as of last week with the cooler weather,” the chief executive of one womenswear multiple said. “Last week knitwear was up 32% year on year. The outlook for autumn is positive.”

The managing director of one footwear retailer agreed trading over the summer had “been tough” but said the “back to school” demand had helped trade pick up in the past week: “Overall footfall has been tough for us. Full-price sales haven’t been as strong as they should have been. We and others have noticed that the athleisure trend in particular has become more polarised. If you don’t have the right product at the right time, then consumers won’t be appeased by an alternative.”

He added: “But we’re hopeful for the weeks ahead. The great thing about back to school is it comes when spend is a bit slow.

“We have also seen a bit of an uptick in London: the tourists are coming back and that seems to have improved things, too.”

Martin Ingram, UK and Ireland managing director of footwear brand Josef Seibel, said the cooler weather had caused a shift in customers’ mindsets: “The change in the weather has got people thinking of changing their wardrobes, which is positive, and the hot weather during the summer season has cleared through sandal products – [retailers] have had to get new products in to keep generating sales.”

The chief executive of one lifestyle brand said footfall during the summer was down but sales of seasonal products had surpassed expectations: “Categories that do well in good weather have outperformed. Traffic is down on the high street and it has been a challenge in that respect. But if you can put weather-appropriate product in front of people, it will sell. I think customers are looking for things that inspire.”

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