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Published
Mar 9, 2018
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Fashion fails to inspire shoppers in February says BDO

Published
Mar 9, 2018

UK high street sales slid again in February and not even Valentine’s Day could rescue them. That’s the conclusion of the latest high street sales tracker (HSST) from BDO, which also showed low interest in fashion last month.


Sentiment for buying fashion was weak in the UK last month



Excluding online, overall sales fell 1.6% last month and on top of a 2.2% drop this time last year, that was bad news for a month that sees plenty of new season merchandise appearing in-store.

In fact, sales at physical stores have now been in negative territory in every February since 2013. And coming more up-to-date, sales in stores haven't grown for the last five months.

Every week during February was bad, even during the week leading up to Valentine's Day and the news in week two of February was particularly worrying. Sales during that week dropped 1.32%, which may not sound that bad. But given that in the same week last year, snowfall had driven sales down by nearly 7%, the extra dip this time showed just how tough the retail environment is.

But the biggest low came in week four when sales dropped by 2.42%, despite the fact that the same week the year before saw Storm Doris battering the UK and leaving sales down by 3.51%. Just add all those figures together and you can see just how deep the weak consumer sentiment since the Brexit vote goes.

So what about Valentine’s Day? The week that included the day saw sales down 1.07% even though they’d risen 2.32% in the equivalent week a year ago. Given how many people celebrated Valentine's Day in the UK, this suggests that GlobalData was correct when it predicted that people would be visiting discounters to buy their Valentine's Day merchandise.

BDO also said that for the first time since October, all three in-store sector indexes were in negative territory (high streets, retail parks and shopping centres) in February with sluggish footfall. 

And subdued consumer spending was evident across different channels this month while non-store sales also posted the lowest monthly growth rate since August 2017. 

BDO said comparable sales in fashion were down by 1.9% in February from a base of -3.4% for the equivalent month last year. The fall may not have been as big as last year’s, but it was a decline nonetheless and In-store fashion comp sales have now not been positive in February since 2013. 

Following a positive result in January (+0.5%), in-store sales have been negative for fashion in four of the last five months. Down in every week of February, the low came in week four when fashion had its poorest weekly in-store result of the year to that point (-4.44%), falling off further from a poor equivalent week last year that was hit by Storm Doris (-4.51%).

Any good news? Well, non-store comp sales were up by 15.8% in February from a base of +19.9% for the same month last year. But the result marked the lowest non-store growth for February on record, at least since the HSST began tracking non-store in 2010. It also marked the second month in succession where non-store sales have been below a rise of 20% and the lowest non-store monthly growth since April 2017. 

The high of +18.72% came in week two, the last full week prior to Valentine’s Day, while week three (including Valentine’s Day) saw comp sales growth at a month low of +13.58%.

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