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Occasionwear sales soar over bank holiday

Retailers have reported a spike in occasionwear sales over the spring bank holiday weekend, despite an overall year-on-year decrease in footfall across the UK.

Footfall across all UK shopping destinations was 2.8% lower over the spring bank holiday weekend this year than the same period last year, insights provider Springboard reported.

The uncertain weather meant that covered environments, such as shopping centres, were more appealing to consumers than high streets.

On Sunday, footfall in shopping centres was level with last year, but was -6.8% lower on the high street. The Monday footfall was only -0.1% down annually in shopping centres, but down by -4.6% across UK high streets.

Despite this, several businesses noticed an upward trend in occasionwear sales as a result of summer discounting.

Gavin Williams, managing director of supply chain for UK and Ireland at XPO Logistics, which runs warehouses on behalf of Asos, said: “Last week, we saw a slight uplift in retail volume related to wedding and event apparel and shoes, as consumers took advantage of pre-holiday sales.”

The company reported an uptick of around 10% over its normal activity across the long weekend.

Jermyn Street shirtmaker Emma Willis agreed: “I gave all our shop staff the weekend off and served in the shop solo, thinking it would be quiet, as half-term was starting, too.

“However, it was very busy, with many high-end tourists in England for the perfect time of year to see our great gardens… and lots of younger customers in London for the weekend especially, buying wedding shirts.”

She added: “I only opened at 11am on Saturday and we had a great day of sales – more than £8,000, which is good in our small shop.”

Beth Scott-Morris, owner of clothing and homeware independent Iris & Violet in Stamford, Lincolnshire, noticed the same trend: “Overall, the Friday going into the bank holiday was my busiest day due to the weather being so nice: 11-2pm on Friday were my peak trading hours, with many ladies buying dresses for weddings and clothing items and gifts for weekend plans they had.”

However, she reported slower trade during the rest of the weekend as shoppers stayed at home or went to retail parks because of the unpredictable weather.

Scott-Morris added: “Saturday got off to a slow start with trade not picking up until early afternoon. Then it was really busy, with many people coming in with family and friends who were staying with them for the weekend. Trading was slightly down on the previous Saturday mainly due to the morning being so quiet. I put down this down to people having jobs to get done at home, etc, before the long weekend.

“Sunday was really quiet, and the wet weather didn’t help. We only had a small number of customers and those who did come in said they were surprised we were open. It was much quieter in comparison to the previous Sunday, when the weather was nice and footfall was much higher.”

Simon Poole, managing director of menswear brand and retailer Luke 1977, said: “We had a really nice bump in sales and a nice lift the whole weekend. As the Monday doesn’t fall within the same monthly cycle, my like-for-likes weren’t crazily different, but compared with last year we were up by around 20%.

“Category-wise, it was mostly T-shirts and polos. However, we’ve just launched our pre-autumn, which is a little bit smarter and dressier, and has sold well initially. Normally we launch that a bit later, and used to stock traditional holiday-geared clothes at this stage in the year. By bringing that in earlier we’ve been able to provide some smarter options, which has helped in certain areas.

”Compared with the previous bank holiday, sales were strong. We always find that the summer is the true kick-off for the year. You’re always battling through spring depending on weather and the nation’s sentiment. But this first bit of sunshine means everyone wants to sharpen up.”

Darren Hoggett, owner of Norwich independent J&B Menswear, said: “Trade was steady, though rather unseasonal due to indifferent weather. Therefore, we are selling more denim and longer-sleeve items in store, whereas online sales have been more lighter products, especially overseas.

“Footfall is slightly down this year, though average spend continues to rise as does our website. We are continuing to move towards more niche, cult brands rather than over-distributed ones that have lost their value and sense of purpose.”

Colin White, owner of Folkestone streetwear independent The Quarter Masters, said that the weekend had been positive in his store. 

He said: “Footfall was very good: fortunately, The Old High Street [where The Quarter Masters is situated] is pretty much the only way from the upper town to the Harbour Arm, so the whole bank holiday stampede passes our door.

“Due to the typically changeable weather over the bank holiday, we actually sold quite a few of our unisex sweatshirts, which come in a number of colours, and have our logo on the chest. So, it’s not officially vest season yet.”

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