Warm September Melts High Street Sales

Last month’s unexpected heatwave contributed to another heavy fall in sales on the high street with clothing retailers suffering the most.

High street fashion sales recorded by BDO’s September High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) recorded a year-on-year drop of 5.9% – beaten only by April’s like-for-like fall of 9.2%. As the country basked in the hottest September in 105 years, fashion retailers were left trying to shift full priced autumn and winter collections.

While fashion retailers wilted, sales of lifestyle goods edged into growth in September (up 0.9% year-on-year) and the homewares sector saw a healthy year-on-year growth of 12.6%. However, neither gain was enough to drag Britain’s high streets into positive territory though, with September’s like-for-like growth across all sectors dropping by 2.8% – the eighth month in a row with no sign of growth.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said September was always going to be tough when compared against a strong September 2015 (up 2.8%), but retailers should take the erratic weather as a lesson in the importance of flexibility.

“When you look at individual performances, it doesn’t take long to spot who has innovated and adapted their supply chains to be able to cope with unseasonal weather,” she said.

“And it’s not just the temperature that is in flux; in order to maintain a strong performance, retailers should ensure that they are attuned to the changing demands of consumers and navigating future challenges presented by Brexit. Those that can remain flexible, and adapt quickly, will not only stand the best chance of success but will also be well placed to grab the opportunities that will no doubt present themselves in these uncertain times.”