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Hope springs for new season trading after strong January

Retailers are feeling optimistic about spring 14 trading after shoppers began buying into new season product.

Last week the British Retail Consortium revealed that UK retail sales had experienced their strongest growth since March 2010, with like-for-like sales up 3.9% in January, and retailers agreed there had been an encouraging start to the year.

Daniel Rubin, chief executive of footwear retailer Dune, said he was seeing “minor signs of improvement” in consumer confidence.

“Trade is good; we are currently up on this time last year,” he said. “We’ve had a great reaction to sandals as people have been buying into open shoes earlier in the season than usual due to the mild weather.”

Despite some promotions at retailers – including New Look, which is offering £10 dresses; Gap, which has a 30%-off denim promotion; and Topshop, which is giving an extra 20% off Sale items – Rubin was sticking to full-price product. “You have to be brave,” he said.

One chief executive of a high street retailer, who did not want to be named, said business had been “buoyant” since Christmas. “I’m very happy with how we’ve been trading,” she said. “Last week was soft because the weather was bad, although I don’t like to use the weather as an excuse. Compared with our competitors we were buoyant.

“We’ve still got some markdown [from the January Sales] but we’ve got newness coming through now, which is working really well.”

She added that the upcoming wedding season would further bolster occasionwear sales and she is optimistic about the next few months.

Ken Bartle, owner of 10-store premium footwear retailer Shoon, said: “It’s very early in the season to be pushing promotions. Some retailers are trying to combat the poor weather but it’s too soon to mark down new product.”

He added that the brighter weather this week had helped bolster trade: “Last week the poor weather meant sales suffered but we’ve seen that improve as the weather has picked up.”

Cath Kidston has also had a strong reactionto spring styles. Marketing director Sue Chidler said: “In spite of the weather our spring collections have been selling very well. Lightweight sleeveless cotton dresses in pastel blues and pinks have been particularly popular.”

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