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Womenswear sales continue to slow in December

Womenswear sales in December continued to lag behind other categories after trade in the fashion and footwear sectors was hit by the snow during the month.

Sales growth in fashion and footwear fell back in December after a stronger November, with customers seeking bargains and waiting for the snow to thaw before purchasing.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KMPG Retail Sales Monitor, UK retail like-for-like sales values across all sectors dropped 0.3% in December compared to the same month a year ago when sales had risen 4.2%. On a total basis, sales were up 1.5% against a 6% increase in December 2009.

On a three-month basis, non-food sales only inched ahead 0.6% with non-food like-for-likes down 0.8%.

Clothing

Sales growth in clothing in December fell back after a surge in November during the colder weather. The snow boosted outerwear, knitwear and warm accessories but both menswear and womenswear sales growth slowed.

Shopper caution surpressed trade with many looking for discounts and considering larger purchases more carefully.

Kidswear, seen as an essential purchase especially during the colder weather, was robust.

Womenswear sales continued to drop below their year-earlier level with dresses and hosiery the best performing categories. Handbags and jewellery were strong for some.

In menswear casualwear outperformed formalwear and knitwear was a strong gifting item.

Footwear

Sales growth slowed in footwear during the month after a stronger November. Women’s footwear lagged behind men’s and kids’ footwear but all three showed small gains.

The best performance in women’s footwear came from boots – particularly knee-high, ankle and shearling - helped by the cold weather and fashion trends. Casual footwear sales were strong. Wellingtons and snowboots sold well. Promotional activity helped to attract those looking for deals.

Department stores

Sales varied across the department store sector for December but were generally slower than in November. Trade in the pre-Christmas week recovered when people ventured out after the snow to buy last minute gifts.

Internet and mail order

Internet and mail order sales grew only marginally in December after a strong November, up 18% year-on-year, a 26.5% increase December 2009.

‘Deliver growth’

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “The unusually early winter made a difficult Christmas worse. With mounting concerns about the impact of spending cuts and the wider economy, sales growth has been weak since last summer. December was always likely to be similarly unspectacular but the snow and ice dealt an extra blow to business for many retailers.

“Catch-up shopping gave a big boost to the week before Christmas and the post-Christmas clearances were strong for non-food retailing but neither was enough to replace every sale lost earlier in the month.

“This is no return to the dire picture of two years ago, but the message for the Chancellor is: concentrate on delivering growth and leave any new burdens out of your march Budget.”

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