Fashion and beauty fall as March snow dent sales, but online stays stronger

Clothing down. Footwear down. Health and beauty down. That was the picture of UK retail last month as ongoing bad weather meant interest in sarongs, sandals, sun cream and spring/summer fashion generally was at a low.


UK consumers were discount-focused last month


Who says so? The British Retail Consortium and Barclaycard, who both released March surveys on Tuesday. And they backed up what just about every other footfall and sales tracking specialist has been saying for weeks.

In fact, the BRC said that over the three-months to March, non-food retail sales in the UK fell 1.8% on a comparable basis and 1% in total and if you take the effects of inflation into account, represents and even bigger step backwards that you would think at first.

Both clothing and footwear were among the worst fallers (although we don’t know by how much) while health and beauty fell, but less so. At least jewellery and watches managed a slight increase, perhaps helped by Mother’s Day and Easter gifting.

ONLINE UP

Meanwhile online sales of non-food products grew 7.9% in March, against a growth of 6.6% in March 2017, probably skewed in 2018’s favour by the early Easter this year. The online penetration rate increased from 20.6% in March 2017 to 22% in March 2018.

And online delivered better news for fashion and beauty as clothing, footwear and health/beauty all managed to rise, with fashion generally among the stronger categories.

Regardless of what went up and what went down, the report also said that shoppers mostly “remain cautious about economic outcomes” and “value-seeking behaviour is actually becoming more common, with 46% of shoppers saying they always look for the cheapest products even if it takes time to find them, up from 40% in March 2017.” That may have meant that some of March’s Easter discounts hit the spot.

BARCLAYCARD

Meanwhile the monthly Barclaycard survey also said that clothing was weak. Spending on ‘family clothing’ fell 7.4% in-store, but rose 19% online for an overall increase of 1.3% - but again, inflation close to 3% takes the lustre off that figure.

Shoe shops were down 18.2% but up 1% online for a total fall of nearly 13%. Womenswear dropped 12.1% in-store and even fell slightly online (0.3%) for a total 7.5% drop. Menswear fared better with a 2.5% in-store fall and an almost 16% online rise to increase 4.1% in total. 

By retail sector, department stores were down 6.6% in-store and up 5.3% online for a 4.1% drop altogether, while sport stores dropped 7.5% with the online rise of 4.2% meaning their totals were down 4.1%. Discounters were more buoyant as far as bricks and mortar were concerned with just a 1% store drop. But a mere 0.8% online rise meant they rose only 2% in total. Cosmetics stores were the best of the bunch rising 0.5% physically and 11.8% online for a 6.4% total rise.

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