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Fashion outperforms in worst January for 15 years

Clothing and footwear sales in January came in ahead of all other retail sectors compared with a year ago, but slowed since December.

Footwear was once again the top performer in January on a like-for-like basis, followed by clothing, both of which outperformed food and homewares and saw positive like-for-like sales growth compared with January 2009.

Retail like-for-like sales growth across all sectors slowed to its lowest rate in 15 years in January, falling 0.7%, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) - KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. On a total basis, sales rose 1.2% against a 3.2% increase in January 2009. The poor performance was attributed to the snowy weather at the beginning of the month.

Clothing

Clothing sales growth saw a sharp drop at the start of the January as snow dissuaded shoppers from going out. When the snow cleared there was a sales hike but growth was still weaker than in December.

Strong performers during the cold weather included outerwear, warm accessories, knitwear and skiwear.

Kidswear

Kidswear continued to outperform adults’ clothing and was well up on a year ago.

Accessories

Accessories such as handbags and jewellery showed gains for some, especially in clearance sales.  

Footwear

Footwear sales were also strongest in the kids’ sector, where sales were up on last year. However, the drop in adult footwear sales meant the sector as a whole performed worse than last January.

Boots were the best seller in the cold weather. Men’s casual styles outperformed formal, while for women’s footwear it was more mixed.

Online and mail order

Online and mail order sales were 14.6% higher in January, compared to a 26.5% growth in December. Some online retailers were helped by the bad weather that prevented some shoppers leaving home.

‘A month of two halves’

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “An awful start to the year and in stark contrast to an upbeat December. This is the worst January growth in total sales in the 15 years we’ve been running the survey. It was a month of two halves with a focus on must-haves early on…The month as a whole was significantly weaker than December.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: “As the month progressed, clothing and footwear picked up considerably but other non-food sectors continued to show weakness.”

Nick Coulter, analyst at brokers Numis, said: “Clothing and footwear lead the way. Both clothing and footwear ran ahead of the food like-for-like, with the remaining broad categories in negative territory. While we are wary of feedback that the drapers have been promotional, January seems to have been a reasonable month for the clothing category with pent-up demand making up for the days lost to snow.”

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