Mainstream womenswear independents are defying the changeable weather, reporting positive trading with uplifts of up to 10% on last year.
In a poll by Drapers, most retailers said that although changeable weather had led to unpredictable sales, they were optimistic that trading would outperform last year.
Aileen Martin, manager of Ark Angel in Edinburgh, which stocks brands such as Petrovitch & Robinson and Ventilo, said: "The first 14 days in May were very good because of the weather, but also because we had a promotion for our five-year anniversary. Sales have risen 13% on last year for the first three months of this year."
Sarah Murray, owner of nearby Jane Davidson in the city, also said that in-store promotions had helped to lift sales. "I'm about 10% up on last year," she said. "May has been good despite the unsettled weather, but it has really been fuelled by two events we held - a jeans promotion and a summer fashion show."
Murray said customers were opting for bright colours, with the maxi dress proving as popular as on the high street.
The Glasshouse in Guildford, Surrey, reported a 10% hike in sales compared with last year, with shoppers mainly buying neutral colours and textures.
At two-store Guilty By Design in Edinburgh, trading was up 4.5% on last year, with one branch clearly outperforming the other. Buyer and general manager Marianne Lindsay said bright blues, pinks and yellows were the most sought-after colours, while dresses and other occasionwear items were boosting sales due to demand from graduations, weddings and other more formal events in the spring and summer.
However, some retailers did report flat or falling sales, blaming the unseasonably cold May weather.
"We've had a reasonable time," said Jenni Devereux, a partner at Annette Collins in Norwich, which stocks brands such as Olsen. "But mid to late May was not very good because of the cold weather." She added that the store had lost out on sales due to a lack of long-sleeved dresses, which customers had been requesting.
- For more on dress trends, see the Letters section on the opposite page.