High Street Sales Fail To Grow For Fourth Month In A Row

The UK’s high street is struggling to lift itself out of a lengthy slump but has the potential to turn shoppers into buyers, according to figures released today by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO.

According to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), UK retailers have failed to grow sales for the fourth month in a row, with like-for-like sales flat (0%) in March despite warmer weather and Mother’s day seeing footfall up three out of four weeks on March 2016, peaking at +5.2% in week four.

The lifestyle sector grew 1.4% year-on-year, with Mother’s Day acting as the main driver for growth. Homewares also benefited, with sales up 1.8% year-on-year, although growth is beginning to slow.

Year-on-year fashion sales are again disappointing, having dropped -0.8% in March from -2.5% in the same period last year. However, the sector actually performed better than previous months. In February, like-for-like sales declined -3.4% (the poorest result for the sector since September 2016).

While retailers struggled to convert buoyant footfall into bricks-and-mortar sales, they did fare better online with non-store sales up by +28.1% – the highest monthly result seen since January 2015 (+37.8).

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, commented: “March 2017 is the fourth month in a row to see no growth on the high street despite a notable rise in footfall. The new season should have triggered high street spending, and retailers will be questioning why they have been unable to convert shoppers into buyers.

“As inflation is beginning to be felt against a backdrop of economic uncertainties, it is ever more important that retailers focus on product, quality and range. With a tightening consumer purse, shoppers will become increasingly choosy about how they spend their pound. Retailers have clearly got a challenge ahead of them and will have to go the extra mile to differentiate their products and stores.”

NAM Implications:
  • Its called flat-line demand, folks (despite political assurances to the contrary…)
  • …with real growth coming at the expense of competitors…
  • …in turn driven by pulling power, or relative competitive appeal.