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Weather dents UK fashion sales in March says BDO


A “blanket of snow” smothered fashion sales in the UK last month, which was also the second worst month on record for physical stores, according to the latest BDO High Street Sales Tracker (HSST).

Across all sectors, the researcher said that comparable retail sales were down by a significant 10.1% year-on-year, mainly due to the appalling winter weather. In fact the only worse month was November 2008, which had also been hit by heavy snowfall, as well as coming at the height of the financial crisis. So having established that Britain really can't cope with snow, what else did we learn? BDO said the month started badly with comparable sales plummeting by almost 30% at one point. The 28%+ drop in week one was the worst it had ever recorded, and even the more-than-8% increase in week two (which was the best total in-store result since mid-April last year) couldn't make up for the prior week’s fall. But the increase during that second week was largely attributable to Mother's Day (which should have disproportionately helped fashion and beauty) and another blast of wintry weather meant that weeks three and four were also grim. In fact week four was down almost 13%. So what about the news that fashion didn't fare very strongly? Physical store comparable fashion sales dropped 12.7% in March, which was worse than the result for the retail sector as a whole. Looking back at last year, the fall had been just 0.8% and clearly, that's a huge difference. And while November 2008 had been a gloomier month for the total retail sector, for fashion, March 2018 took the booby prize as the worst four weeks on record. BDO said in-store fashion sales were hit hardest by the winter storms in week one as they fell a massive 31.78% just at a time when retailers might have been expecting consumers to show an interest in spring collections. Week two, ending in Mother’s Day, saw sales up, but only by 2.42%, and a return of the wintry weather in week three saw comp sales decline in-store by 9.28%. As the snow continued to linger on, week four also ended significantly down (11.68%), going up against a negative week that had ended in Mother’s Day the year before. Homewares also struggled with a more-than-13% drop for the month and an almost-26% fall in week one. At least online sales continued to grow, but not by the spectacular percentages that we’ve seen in the past. BDO said that online comp sales were up 11% and while that might look good, they surged more than 28% this time last year. That meant March 2018 showed the lowest monthly growth since December 2015. BDO believes that while some consumers would have shifted their shopping online as they were unable to get to stores, many avoided placing online orders altogether over concerns that deliveries would not make it through. And the end result of all the activity (or lack of it) both in stores and online as the weather starts to improve in April is that “spending on items such as clothing, homeware and electrical goods still remains under tremendous strain,” BDO said.


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