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Late bank holiday and rain dampen retail sales

Retail sales fell 1% on a like-for-like basis in August compared to the same period last year, due partly to the late bank holiday.

Total sales crept up 0.1%, against a 2.7% rise in August 2014, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

The bank holiday (August 31) falling into the September reporting period this year distorted the figures of “back-to-school-sensitive” categories, including clothing and footwear, which both experienced declines. This was compounded by the wet weather, which hit seasonal fashion.

Shorts and T-shirts sold better than coats and jumpers, while menswear - and particularly shirts and formalwear - outperformed womenswear and kidswear.

Footwear in particular suffered from the shift of the bank holiday into the September reporting period, as back-to-school is an important period for the category. Men’s footwear was the only segment that saw growth.

In contrast, online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 6.5% year on year in August. Within that, clothing sales posted “decent growth”.

The proportion of clothing sales made online increased by 2.2 percentage points to 24.8%.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “While non-food sales over the last three months are up 3% overall, they were down in August. However, the figures were likely distorted by the fact that they do not include the bank holiday, which will be accounted for in the September period this year.

“At this time of the year, parents are busily shopping for back-to-school essentials like clothes, footwear and stationery and those sales will peak later this year. Retailers will hope to recoup that sales deficit in September and to start feeling the effect of higher real wages.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “As the summer bank holiday fell a week later this year, sales were pushed into September, meaning top-line trends for August were inevitably dampened (along with the weather) versus 2014.

“Overall, August sales were down 1% on a like-for-like basis with fashion and footwear hit particularly hard as families delayed back-to-school purchases and wet weather deferred the impetus to shop.

“September sales will get a shot in the arm from the bank holiday and the comradery of the Rugby World Cup. However, the fashion world will be hoping that last year’s Indian summer does not repeat itself, resulting in heavy discounting to move seasonal items.”

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