The British fashion market has returned to growth after consecutive months of decline dating back to June 2016, at around the time of the Brexit vote.
According to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, the UK fashion retail sector saw growth of 0.2 per cent in the full year period ending September 24.
The increase in sales was worth only £66 million, but Kantar predicts it will continue improving as the Christmas shopping season approaches.
However, with 2016 Back Friday fashion sales declining by 16 per cent year-on-year as many retailers actively rejected the initiative in the lead-up to Christmas, Kantar warned the industry to not to fall back into a “pattern of discounting for discounting’s sake” if it wanted to see long term growth.
The latest figures also show that fashion items sold at full price are now driving market growth – up two per cent year-on-year.
Kantar said full price sales contributed an additional £483 million to the market since this time last year, while discounting is down 2.7 per cent during the same period with 98 million fewer units sold on promotion.
“For years we’ve seen heavy discounting and this created an atmosphere of mistrust: consumers felt clothing wasn’t worth its full price,” Kantar consumer insight director Glen Tooke said.
“Retailers have made a significant effort to address this by focusing on getting the value right from the off and as a result shoppers have more confidence in buying at the original price.
He added: “Retailers are finally recognising that most shoppers aren’t after what’s ‘in season’ – partly because trends so often bear little relation to the British weather – and larger ranges and a more flexible approach to stock control are helping to break this cycle.”
Took said the market’s return to growth may be welcome news, but the industry needed to remain proactive to avoid complacency.
“Consumers may be buying more every time they shop, but at the same time they’re shopping less frequently – making two fewer visits per year on average compared to 2015,” he said.
“For some time, retailers have been investing in improving the shopping experience – tapping into the trend for more experiential purchases with messaging around how fashion can contribute to a great night out or holiday.
“However, as consumers’ appetite for innovation grows, retailers need to keep thinking of new ways to stand out from the crowd.
Kantar’s figures on the fashion sector – covering clothing, footwear and accessories – comes a day after the Office for National Statistics revealed that overall retail sales volumes fell 0.8 per month-on-month in September.
However, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor released last week, UK retail sales in September increased by 1.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared to the same month last year.