Clothing sales in November were adversely impacted by the mild weather during the month and comparisons with 2008 when the high street was in the throes of a discounting war.
Total retail sales values rose 1.8% on a like-for-like basis in November according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor - a worse-than-expected performance against a dire November last year when like-for-likes dropped 2.6% in the wake of the banking collapse.
Total sales during November this year rose 4.1%, versus a 0.4% drop in the same month a year ago.
Clothing and footwear sales growth slowed after a rise in October when total retail like-for-like sales showed the best growth since 2002.
Clothing sales in November dropped back below November 2008 levels, when sales were already weak. The mild weather this year impacted demand for winter coats, heavy knitwear, and warm accessories. Kidswear continued to outperform adult’s clothing although the rate of growth slowed during the month.
Womenswear was “just down” on a year ago with dresses, smarter tops and leggings driving performance. The year-on-year fall in menswear was the worst since 2008.
Footwear sales remained strong - driven by discounts and promotions - against a weak November 2008 but not as good month-on-month. Boots sold well during the month due to the wet weather and women’s footwear outperformed men’s and children’s. Ankle and high-leg boots were strong performers. Children’s footwear was up year-on-year but slowed after a good September.
Department stores were helped by Sales and promotions during November, with clothing and footwear showing robust gains for many. However, winter ranges continued to suffer during the mild weather.
Internet and mail order
Internet, mail order and phone sales were 16.9% higher than a year ago compared with 18% in October. The rate of growth was in line with the slowdown in store sales.
Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said growth in November was not as strong as expected.
“We would have expected much stronger growth because the comparison is with very poor results in 2008 when November was the second worst performing month of the year,” said Robertson.“Growth was weaker than a strong October, but it’s not as bad as it seems”.
He added: “Discounts and downpours boosted boot and shoe sales – while the milder weather hit clothing sales. There was continued growth in non-store non-food sales.”
He added that consumer confidence remains “fragile” and has “taken a turn for the worse”.
He said: “We’re the only major economy still in recession. Uncertainty over jobs and future tax increases and Government spending cuts is making customers more cautious. Retailers are hopeful of a better Christmas than last year’s dire performance, but it’s still all to play for.”
Helen Dickinson, KPMG head of retail, was bullish about the outlook for Christmas: “Although regaining ground lost in the early run up to Christmas is difficult, if not impossible, many retailers will be quietly confident that their performance will not be anywhere near as bad as some may have expected six months ago.“