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Online aids 'stifled' September sales

Unseasonably warm weather “stifled” autumn sales in September yet ecommerce helped to bolster revenues for clothing and footwear retailers.

UK retail sales were up 0.7% on a like-for-like basis in September, while on a total basis sales rose 2.4%, according to the BRC and KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. Although sales continued to grow it was the weakest growth so far this year, excluding Easter distortions.

KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: “These figures are a reality check and will make retailers nervous as we enter the run up to Christmas. Unseasonably warm weather stifled sales of autumn and winter collections in September and the recovery in home related items flattened. Consumers are still cautious about spending and are reluctant to restock their wardrobes with winter woollies until the weather cools.”

He added: “The stark fact is the retail recovery remains fragile and in the lead up to Christmas retailers, who are generally carrying less stock than in prior years, will need to manage promotional activity carefully to maintain margins.”

However online was a different picture as sales of non-food products grew 13.4% in September and over the last three months online revenues contributed to a third of total non-food retail growth. In September, online sales represented 17.5% of total non-food sales, the highest penetration rate this year. Excluding online sales, clothing and footwear would have shown a decline in September.

Across both online and in store kidswear sales shone during the month, building on back to school momentum. Menswear and womenswear were disappointing for a number of retailers, however some said women’s designer ranges outperformed the rest, perhaps inspired by London Fashion Week.

Transitional items including fleeces, polo shirts and light coats saw the strongest demand due to the mild weather.

Footwear performed strongly, also driven by the children’s sector and back-to-school products. Boots showed some signs of strength too.

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