Persistent wet weather over the bank holiday weekend last week further dampened consumer spending, despite occasionwear and accessories providing some relief.
The bad weather followed relentless April showers that deterred shoppers from adding to their spring wardrobes.
According to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, UK like-for-like sales were down 3.3% compared with last April. Footwear sales showed the largest decline since January 2008 and clothing sales also dropped substantially.
Sally Bailey, chief executive of White Stuff, said the weather was a big factor for the lifestyle retailer, with sales of summer product, particularly footwear, badly affected.
However, accessories, particularly scarves, performed well as shoppers looked to update their outfits. “Certain areas are doing well but that doesn’t negate the fact that T-shirts, skirts and dresses are just not selling,” said Bailey.
The owner of one sportswear indie said: “The rain isn’t helping anyone, particularly those of us who sell sandals or swimwear. We were doing well in March but everything has slowed down.”
“In some ways we are less affected by weather. Karen Millen is about special purchases that are much more considered,” she said.
The operations director of one womenswear multiple, while pleased with his own trading, was concerned that poor sales could spark discounting across the high street: “Those with a lot of high-summer product in their stores are going to run into problems because they haven’t been able to shift anything, and they are going to have to start discounting soon in order to do so.”