Nov 5, 2021
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Fashion was star sector in October says high street sales tracker

Nov 5, 2021

UK retailers saw a reasonably good October with fashion sales in strongly positive territory, but whether sales will remain elevated as we head into the festive shopping season remains open to question. That’s according to the analysts behind BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST).

Photo: Pixabay/Public domain

The company said on Friday that October retail sales hit an eighth month of consecutive growth and the fashion sector drove the increase as homewares flattened following consistent growth.

But there was also a drop in consumer confidence that “may herald a bleak winter for UK retailers”.

Looking at October, retailers were helped by Halloween and the half-term holiday, the accountancy and business advisory firm said.

Total like-for-like (LFL) sales, combined in-store and online, increased by 19.9% from a base of +1.6% for the same month last year.

And total non-store like-for-like sales increased by 15.7% from a base of +86% in October 2020, showing that online continues to grow its proportion of the retail market, even if the growth is getting back to more normal levels now that stores are open and consumers are confident enough to visit them. 

Physical stores also saw growth, with that channel’s weekly like-for-like sales consistently offsetting last year’s base results. In the final week, when Halloween coincided with the half-term holiday, total LFL sales peaked, reaching +27.52% from a base of +6.03% in the equivalent week last year.

Fashion, lifestyle, and homewares all record positive total like-for-like sales but fashion was the standout sector with like-for-like sales increasing by a massive 36.8% for the month, from a base of -4.8% for the same time last year. It’s a further sign that consumers really do believe life is back to normal, even with fears about rising Covid cases.

Each week in October saw consistent growth in total like-for-like sales for fashion, with a surge in activity in the final week of the month as sales growth reached 45.78%.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “During October, consumers may have heeded warnings to get their Christmas shopping in early amid fears of supply shortages and price hikes due to inflationary pressures. 

“Retailers ― and fashion brands in particular ― will be pleased with a strong first month in the all-important Golden Quarter, but the big question is whether the tills can keep ringing until Christmas.

“For retailers trying to catch their breath after successive lockdowns, the problems just seem to keep on mounting. In addition to serious staffing and supply chain challenges, consumer confidence fell sharply from September to October raising fears that the rising cost of living could mean a spending slowdown in the lead-up to Christmas.

“With the market so difficult to read, retailers must focus on staying nimble, responding quickly to fluctuating demand and making sure they have the workforce and logistics capability to deliver on their customer promise. Providing an attractive product range despite the supply chain challenges will also be key.”

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