Warm weather aided sales of clothing and footwear throughout March with footwear sales growth the strongest in five years.
Like-for-like retail sales rose 1.3% compared to March last year, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. On a total basis sales were up 3.6%. The unusually sunny weather in March helped sales of clothing and footwear.
However, the timing of Easter makes analysis difficult for April and March with Easter falling in April in 2011 but March in 2010, making March last year look exceptionally weak.
After two weak months March’s warm weather gave a good boost to sales. Disregarding December’s clearance driven boost, the sales growth seen in March was the best since April 2011. Menswear, womenswear and kidswear all showed year-on-year gains, with menswear and kidswear continuing to outperform womenswear.
Spring 12 stock and transitional ranges sold, well with casual trousers, shorts, tops, skirts and dresses popular. Due to Mothering Sunday handbags and jewellery also saw an uplift.
Footwear sales had its strongest year-on-year growth since April 2007. Children’s footwear saw the largest gain, with canvas styles popular, and women’s footwear also outperformed men’s. Sandals and flat casuals in pastels and neutral colours sold well, with heeled sandals also showing some gains and smart shoes, too, holding up well. Plimsolls and other canvas styles proved popular.
Most department stores had a slower month as warm weather reduced footfall and consumer caution continued to dampen sales. Clothing and footwear, however, still benefited from the spring weather, with mid-season sales and promotions also helping to attract shoppers.
Internet, phone and mail order
Non-food items saw stronger growth with sales up 13.9% on the same month last year, the best since December 2011. However, these were against a very weak March 2011.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The unusually warm weather in March brought some welcome sunshine into the lives of non-food retailers. The early signs of summer got people buying clothes and shoes for the new season.”
However, he added: “It’s worth remembering the sales comparison is against the weakest month of last year, largely caused by the movement of Easter in the calendar, and we’ll have to see whether this is additional spending or just shopping which has happened earlier than usual.
“The overall retail environment is still difficult. Discounting remains a key tactic for retailers trying to encourage consumers to spend, particularly on big indoor items. People are still struggling to balance household budgets against expensive fuel and utilities. The warmth of March was a help but it will take more than a week of sunshine to transform retailers’ fortunes.”