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September fashion sales defy retail decline

Clothing sales edged up by 0.9% in September compared with August as retail sales suffered a 0.8% dip, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Online sales particularly benefitted as textile, clothing and footwear experienced 39.1% growth compared with the same period last year, taking a 16.5% share of the entire retail sales market.

Fashion prices jumped by 3.3% compared with September 2016, and customers bought 7.2% more in terms of volume.

This resulted in strong year-on-year growth for the fashion industry at 10.7%, as retail growth across the board slowed to a rate of 1.5%.

Commenting on online sales growth, David Jinks, head of consumer research at Fastlane, said: “The onslaught on clothing stores is growing faster than even many experts imagined. In 2013 there was a net loss of 264 fashion stores from our high street and that trend has continued to build. The online fashion industry could reach £36.2bn by 2030: 63% of the market compared with today’s 21%.”

He added: “In the UK alone, we spent £57.7bn on shoes and fashion annually – and online sales look set to grab the lion’s share of the market before long.”

In response to the ONS figures, Rachel Lund, head of retail insight and analytics at the British Retail Consortium said: “September’s sales showed little evidence of consumers seriously shifting their shopping behaviour in response to the squeeze on spending power, with sales up in volume and value terms on last year.

“Clothing and footwear retailers were the biggest beneficiaries, as the back-to-school shop coincided with the onset of autumn. Price increases are still absorbing the lion’s share of growth in spending, with growth in food sales in September almost entirely down to inflation.

“However, it is true that things remain challenging for the retail industry. Rising costs are eating into margins, prices rises are absorbing the pounds in shoppers’ wallets, while the simple economics underpinning current spending behaviour aren’t sustainable: household earnings are falling in real terms, consumer borrowing is at levels only seen in the lead-up to the last financial crisis and it cannot continue for ever.”

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