Womenswear and footwear were the only categories across the retail sector to show no improvement in like-for-like sales in June. In fact, womenswear recorded its largest fall this year so far.
Retail like-for-like sales fell 0.6% year-on-year during June but increased 1.5% on the previous month, helped by the early launch of Sales, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
Sales remained just below the previous year, despite a boost from an earlier start to some clearance sales.
Sales have now been down on a year ago in four of the last five months.
Kidswear picked up after a tough May and menswear also improved, but womenswear showed its largest fall so far this year as cautious consumers waited for clearance discounts, especially on the more expensive discretionary items such as handbags, occasionwear and top-end designer clothes.
The cold and wet spell mid-month gave some help to outerwear and light knits, while dresses, blouses and swimwear lagged. Men’s formalwear showed gains for some, particularly in clearance sales.
Overall sales fell further, to show their worst year-on-year decline since May 2009, despite many retailers bringing forward their clearance sales.
Women’s footwear suffered most, with sales considerably down on a year ago. After an upturn in April, summer shoes and sandals struggled in June’s cooler weather.
Kid’s and men’s footwear showed some improvement from May’s slowdown, but largely thanks to clearance discounts.
Many clearance sales started earlier this year than last, boosted year-on-year growth.
The cooler wet weather also helped footfall. Shoppers carefully planned purchases and waited for discounts which helped the more discretionary items such as fashion accessories, beauty products and designer clothing.
Internet and mail order
Sales over the internet, phone and by mail order picked up a little in June after two slower months. Sales were 11.5% higher than a year ago, compared with 10.4% in May but 18% in June 2010.
It took promotions, discounts and heavy marketing to encourage orders, hitting margins. Many people had bought fashions earlier in the season and didn’t feel the need to buy again.
BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said: “Given June’s spate of shop closure announcements and weak company results, these figures are not as bad as they could have been but it shows just how tough times are when total sales growth of 1.5% is regarded as not that bad.
“The higher VAT rate is making the year-on-year comparison look better than it really is, while retailers are coping with higher costs because of increased utility bills, rates and the burden of regulation.
“Underlying conditions are still tough but being masked by a minor revival in non-food sales driven by price cuts and clearance events starting earlier this year.
“The modest sales improvement has been concentrated on less expensive things - home textiles and accessories - rather than big-ticket items.”