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Signs of spring fail to point to sales uplift for retailers

Retailers remain cautious about trading prospects in March as shopping patterns continued to be volatile in 2010.

Retailers questioned by Drapers said February had been a lacklustre month for trade as the cold weather conditions and political uncertainty led to shoppers staying at home or delaying purchases.

However, retailers welcomed the first significant signs of spring weather, with sunshine bringing out shoppers in the first few days of March and providing a much-needed uplift in trade after what was anecdotally a slow February. Drapers’ findings contrast with figures released by the CBI last week reporting that clothing sales volumes rose at their fastest rate in February since October 2006.

One value fashion retailer said: “When there isn’t snow on the floor it has been OK. The customer is reacting to newness. Having some sunshine is like switching on a light.”
However, the uplift expected during the pay day weekend at the end of February did not materialise for many, indicating that customers remained conservative with their spending.
One footwear retailer said: “There wasn’t any effect on the pay day weekend. The milder weather at the start of the week had some effect - pushing our like-for-likes up into high single digits on a very soft February 2008 - but we thought that business would be a bit better by now.

To be honest, trade is a bit flat all round and it is only going to get harder.” One high street retailer added: “Young fashion is tough. March will be better than February, partly because the clearing out of end-of-season stock in February was slower than last year. The customer is still buying markdowns and clearance.”

The source added that numbers were “good” at the beginning of this week when the sun shone but that the previous weekend was not as good as expected.

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