Fashion Sales Hit By Easter Freeze

Fashion sales put in a shabby performance last month as unseasonable Spring weather kept shoppers away from the high street.

According to the BDO’s monthly High Street Sales Tracker fashion sales dropped 2.5% in March compared to the same time last year. Despite a 2.4% hike in sales of lifestyle goods, overall high street sales dropped 1%.

BDO said sales started strongly last month helped by an early Mother’s Day but unseasonably cold weather, particularly over the crucial Easter period, hit footfall and demand.

“With a disappointing start to 2016, retailers were banking on the early Mother’s Day and Easter delivering positive sales in March. Savvy consumers are waiting for promotions and discounts before they part with cash, and the absence of sales on the high street combined with heavy downpours over Easter did not encourage spending,” said Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO. “It is now more important than ever for retailers to truly understand their customers and offer the right product mix and shopping experience combined with strategic promotions to entice shoppers into stores. With a weak pound and as the National Living Wage starts to take effect, retailers will have to think hard on which actions will best deliver consumer spending, while keeping an eye on the impact on margins and their operating costs.”

The figures come as women’s fashion chain Bonmarche reported a 0.4% like-for-like sales increase in the 13 weeks to March 26 and a 0.7% hike for the year. It warned that pre-tax profits are likely to be at the lower end of expectations.

Chief executive Beth Butterwick said: “Post-Christmas trading conditions have continued to be quite challenging. The continued cold weather has been unhelpful in kick-starting real demand for spring products. Overall consumer confidence does not appear buoyant and our expectation is that trading conditions will remain challenging and therefore our outlook for 2017 is cautious.”