Retailers reported steady bank holiday trading despite the weather and pre-election caution affecting consumer spend in some areas.
Footfall was up 0.9% at fashion and footwear retailers over the long weekend compared with the same bank holiday last year, according to footfall monitoring firm Synovate Retail Performance.
Sales were also up on last year. The High Street Sales Tracker from BDO Stoy Hayward showed clothing and footwear retail sales rose 8.4% on last year over the comparable bank holiday Saturday and Sunday.
Retailers told Drapers that heavy rain impacted footfall depending on the location of stores.
British Retail Consortium spokesman Richard Dodd said its multiple retail members had reported mixed trade, with department stores and mall-based stores benefiting from the poor weather, while those on the high street saw footfall drop slightly on last year.
Mike Shearwood, chief executive of Aurora Fashions, which owns womenswear chains including Karen Millen and Oasis, said bank holiday trading “exceeded our expectations and our budgets” but added: “The performance of the portfolio across different department store hosts was variable.”
However, some retailers said shoppers were cautious about spending with the general election just days away. Dodd said: “Consumers are more optimistic about the economy than they were a year ago but there were big worries about tax rises and public spending.”
One chief executive of a multiple retailer said: “There is a definite dip in sales in the North of the country, which I think is because of public sector workers fearing job losses after the election.”
Jane McNally, chief executive of womenswear retailer Alexon Group, attributed any regional differences to the poorer weather rather than weaker consumer confidence. “This has not been a long-term trend for us,” she said.
Independent retailers reported better-than-expected footfall over the period with many seeing a marked improvement in year-on-year sales. Jan Shutt, owner of Lancashire womenswear indie Sunday Best, said trading was “way up.”
Louise Kavanagh, owner of Liverpool young fashion indie Boudoir Boutique, added: “We had a good weekend of trading. The rainy weather didn’t put people off.”
A strong bank holiday weekend will have provided a much-needed boost for indies. Figures from trade body the BHF-BSSA showed that sales at clothing and footwear indies fell 1% year on year in the first three months of 2010, while data from market research group Kantar Worldpanel Fashion showed indies have lost market share - down to 5.9% for the year to February 28, from 7.2% the year before.