High street sales suffer sharpest fall in more than three years in March

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April 3, 2015

New BDO survey shows greatest monthly drop on the high street since September 2011

High street sales suffered their sharpest monthly fall in more than three years in March.

Like-for-like sales fell by 4pc compared with a year ago – the greatest monthly drop since September 2011 – due to lower footfall levels and a slide in discounting from a year ago.

The results from the BDO High Street Sales Tracker reflect a tough comparison against 2014, which saw the best March performance for four years as much of the country enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures following a flood-hit February.

The survey also pointed out that this year Easter falls two weeks earlier, and some consumers may be delaying purchases until this week’s long Bank Holiday weekend, when they will have more time to shop.

Official figures last week showed that retail sales rose by a sharper than expected 0.7pc in February, suggesting that consumers were “spending the windfall” from lower food and oil prices.

But the BDO report said evidence from the Office for National Statistics data had “largely failed to materialise among many high street retailers”, with the exception of big-ticket lifestyle and furniture retailers.

The fashion sector was the poorest performer, with like-for-like sales falling 5.5pc due to low footfall levels on high streets and in retail parks. Fashion retailers were also affected by a drop in widespread discounting, which resulted in a decrease in sales.

The best-performing sector was homeware, which notched up like-for-like sales of 6.4pc, with the report saying this area gained the most from rising consumer confidence resulting from lower fuel and food prices. It added that big-ticket furniture and department stores gained most of all but that spending with DIY retailers remains muted.

Sophie Bevan, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “We know consumers have money to spend, but these figures show they won’t commit unless they feel the product and the price is right.

“Stores need to think very carefully about how they approach the next few weeks if they want to catch up during the Easter break, and we may see some retailers using targeted discounting to entice customers through their doors.”

This article was written by agency from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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