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Full-price fashion sales help drive UK market growth

British fashion sales have returned to growth – albeit marginally – after 14 months, as shoppers appear to be more willing to buy items at full price.

The findings are based on Kantar Worldpanel purchase data, and show sales of clothing, footwear and accessories edged up 0.2% in the 52 weeks ending 24 September 2017. This follows 16 consecutive periods of decline dating back to June 2016.

The latest figures show fashion items sold at full price are now driving market growth, with full price sales contributing an additional GBP483m (US$635m) to the market since this time last year. Over the same period discounting is down 2.7%, with 98m fewer units sold on promotion.

"For years we've seen heavy discounting and this created an atmosphere of mistrust: consumers felt clothing wasn't worth its full price," explains Glen Tooke, consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel.

"Retailers have made a significant effort to address this by focusing on getting the value right from the off, and as a result shoppers have more confidence in buying at the original price.

"There's also been an increasing trend for transitional pieces like two-in-one jackets which are relevant for longer and so don't need discounting as soon as the weather turns.

"Retailers are finally recognising that most shoppers aren't after what's 'in season' – partly because trends so often bear little relation to the British weather – and larger ranges and a more flexible approach to stock control are helping to break this cycle."

However, the 0.2% increase in sales is worth just GBP66m.

While the trend is likely to continue improving ahead of Christmas, retailers and brands will need to be proactive to guarantee growth in the long term, Tooke points out.

"Consumers may be buying more every time they shop, but at the same time they're shopping less frequently – making two fewer visits per year on average compared to 2015.

"For some time, retailers have been investing in improving the shopping experience – tapping into the trend for more experiential purchases with messaging around how fashion can contribute to a great night out or holiday.

"They've also added cafés to make shopping more social; spaces which encourage personalisation and creativity; and new technology to add excitement to stores.

"However, as consumers' appetite for innovation grows, retailers need to keep thinking of new ways to stand out from the crowd."

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