Autumnwear demand, Back-to-School lift UK August retail sales, online sales continue to grow

Strong demand for autumnwear and Back-to-School apparel helped retail sales bounce back in August, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Total retail spending was up 2.7% year-on-year, up from 1.3% in July and the best performance since January, excluding April when sales were distorted by the late Easter. Analysts had forecast a 2% rise. Same-store sales last month rose 1.3%, also beating analysts’ expectations of a 0.5% rise, up from a 0.3% decline in July. Overall, the non-food category showed 3.9% year-on-year growth in total sales value during the three months to August. Furniture sales also performed well against the backdrop of a buoyant housing market.

The BRC said the gains in August sales was driven by clothing and footwear, rising at the strongest pace since December 2011, helped by Back-to-School shopping and fashion retailers changing their seasonal collections.

Weather conditions also had an impact.

Strong Back-to-School sales helped, as did dressing-up outfits themed around Disney’s Frozen film, which “proved extremely popular and sold out very quickly online,” the BRC said.

“Overall, it has been a very successful summer for non-food retailers, placing them on a firm footing for the autumn/winter trading period and the run-up to Christmas,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountants KPMG, which sponsors the survey.

The BRC also said that the online channel accounted for 16.5% of total non-food sales in August, up from 14.8% a year ago.

Helen Dickinson, director-general of the BRC, said: “Customers are really responding well to retailers who have worked hard on developing websites that are attractive. This growth has not been consigned to one area, with all categories of items seeing healthy online sales.”

She believed the latest figures showed “great promise” for a further rise in online spending, especially with Christmas approaching.

Consumer spending on clothing rose 9.6% in August, boosted by demand for womenswear, while online clothing sales leapt 28.4% year-on-year, according to figures from Barclays. Taken from purchases made on credit and debit card, consumer spending across all retail categories was up 4.2% year-on-year, despite tough year-ago comparisons. Clothing was the top retail category in August, beating July’s 6.9% rise, according to the data, with womenswear driving the increase, up 9.2%. In contrast menswear fell 2.5%.The kimono trend helped boost July and August sales for retailers such as New Look, showing the importance of open-to-buy strategies to be able to react to trends, Barclays’ research concluded. Barclays said it expected apparel discounters and fashion chains to continue to gain market share.

Footfall across many UK retail destinations dropped 1.9% year-on-year last week, with high streets the worst affected, down 3.3%, according to Springboard data shared with Drapers. Figures showed that for the week beginning August 31, footfall at shopping centres fell 1.6% on-year. Retail parks ducked the trend, up 1%, boosted by a 12.7% leap in Greater London venues. All other regions also showed a rise except for the North and Yorkshire regions where footfall dipped 0.5%. Footfall across all retail destinations on a week-on-week basis fell 2.1%. High streets saw an1.8% dip, with shopping centres down 2.1%.

The Office for National Statistics publishes August retail sales data on September 18 covering a broader range of stores than the BRC data, which focus on larger chains.

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