Footfall levels across the UK fell last month as bad weather swept the UK, driving like-for-like (LFL) high street sales down 0.2 pert cent on last year, according to figures released today.
High street spend saw a “marginal decline”, according to the BDO High Street Tracker, as sales over the second half of November were particularly poor as cold and wet weather kept shoppers away from stores to make early Christmas purchases.
Half term school holidays boosted fashion sales over the first week of the month, up 13.1 per cent LFL on the same week in 2011 though by week four, LFL growth decreased 6.9 per cent, leaving a total of -0.5 per cent in the sector over the month as a whole.
While demand remained subdued in non-fashion with sales reporting a rise of 0.5 per cent, sales across homewares also rose 0.5 per cent, a modest but significant improvement following five consecutive months of decline.
Online sales “were relatively subdued” the tracker noted, though non-fashion performed strongly and saw an uplift in sales overall.
While such a marginal improvement is unlikely to boost retailers’ confidence in the run-up to Christmas, the GfK/NOP Consumer Confidence Index found last week that consumer confidence has soared eight points to -22, reaching its highest levels in 18 months ahead of the festive shopping period.
Don Williams, BDO’s National Head of Retail and Wholesale, conceded that the figures are far from ideal, particularly at a time when a number of retailers, most recently electrical specialist Comet, have entered administration, though predicted that the inevitable Christmas rush will boost the high street.
“People will not cancel Christmas,” Williams said.
“They are just following the trend of the Christmas period getting later every year thanks to extended opening hours and better online shopping services, and the atrocious weather has just given them another reason to delay their festive shopping.
“There is every indication this Christmas will be better than last year.
“Not everyone will get it right though and although the homewares sector has finally seen some growth, we continue to believe that there is a high risk that we will see further failures in the first weeks of 2013 once the festive sales period is over.”