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High street suffers as bad weather hits sales

High street retailers failed to score a repeat of the May Day bank holiday sales success last weekend, but department stores and supermarkets reaped the benefits as shoppers sought shelter from the bad weather which affected much of the UK.

Footfall during the bank holiday weekend fell by 5.1% for Saturday and Sunday compared with last year. Figures for Sunday alone fell by 6.4%, according to research firm Experian Footfall.

One retail executive blamed the weather for a “dreadful” three days of trading. “Numbers will be down between 5% and 15% depending on the sector. The extreme weather means it is impossible to get a feel for the underlying trend,” he said.

The chief executive of one womenswear company added that trading was “horrendous”. He said: “It confirmed our fears that the past two sunny weeks were about catching up and no one still really knows what the run rate is. It shows how a change in weather can create a big swing in turnover. Everyone is tightly managing their stocks in the run through to the summer Sale. I doubt we’ll see much additional discounting before then.”

But while the high street suffered, department stores and supermarkets enjoyed a healthy sales boost.

Adrian Mountford, business unit director for Sainsbury’s Tu, said: “The bank holiday weekend was quite strong for us, with like-for-like sales up on last year.”

John Lewis director of selling operations Dan Knowles said that trade had been boosted by strong fashion sales. “Bank holiday trade continued the recent trend. We finished the week ending 24 May with a 4.8% uplift on fashion.”

A spokesman for luxury department store Harrods in London said it had exceeded its sales targets across the three-day weekend. “We were ahead of targets on all categories. We aren’t planning to move our summer Sale any earlier than the planned June 30,” he said.

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