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Fashion sales slow in April as shoppers remain cautious

Retail sales fell in April, impacted by the timing of Easter and pre-election nerves.

Clothing and footwear sales slowed during the month, according to the British Retail Consortium(BRC)-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, hit by cautious shoppers cutting back on buying discretionary items.

Over the less volatile three-month period, which smoothed out the effect of the fall of Easter in March this year and April last year, non-food like-for-likes rose 2.1%.

Like-for-like sales across the retail sector fell by 2.3% in April, compared with a 4.4% like-for-like increase in the previous month.

On the three-monthly basis, sales rose 3.8% compared with 2.2% in the same period last year.

On a total sales basis sales fell 0.2% in April against a 6.3% increase in April 2009.

Non-food non-store sales in April were 15.9% higher than a year ago.

BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said that politicians must outline how the UK’s deficit will be managed to encourage jittery shoppers to spend.

He said: “There’s no question customers are more willing to spend than 12 months ago but they are still nervous. People need to know how a new government’s moves to tackle the deficit will affect their income and jobs. Even if the measures are tough, knowing what they are coule be better than the current uncertainty.”

Clothing

Clothing sales slowed further in April, to their weakest growth since November 2009, against strong comps for April 2009. The performance reflected consumer caution and a focus on essential purchases and promotional buys.

Womenswear “held up” according to the BRC but menswear and kidswear slowed after two strong months. The warmer weather benefitted the spring ranges with dresses, shorts, lightweight tops and knits selling well.

Footwear

Footwear sales growth was similar to that in March and slower than the previous few months. Women’s footwear sales picked up after a poor February, kids footwear “held up” but men’s slowed sharply. Sandals benefitted from the sunnier days and ballerina pumps and sports shoes were also good for some. Dressy sandals and formal shoes put in a mixed performance.

Department stores

The timing of Easter and a reduced footfall on sunnier days hit department stores’ sales. Sales and promotions attracted shoppers looking for bargains.

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