Retail & Wholesale

High Street sales hit by biggest drop since 2011


High street sales suffered their steepest monthly fall in over three years in March, with like-for-like sales 4% lower than a year ago, according to the latest BDO High Street Sales Tracker. But the results reflect a tough comparison against March 2014, when much of the country enjoyed unseasonably warm weather following a flood-hit February. The fashion sector was the poorest performer, with like-for-like sales down 5.5%, due to lower footfall levels on high streets and retail parks as well as a drop in widespread discounting. Homeware was the best-performing sector, posting 6.4% like-for-like sales growth amid rising consumer confidence resulting from lower fuel and food prices. Big ticket furniture and department stores gained the most, while spending with DIY retailers remained muted. Meanwhile, retailers have been hit by a slump in consumer activity over the Easter bank holiday weekend, with shopping footfall down 4.7% between Easter Friday and noon on Monday compared with the same period last year, according to new data from the retail intelligence unit Springboard. Just last week, Springboard had forecast an almost 5% increase in footfall, based on retailer confidence as the holiday this year fell closer to the March payday. This combined with recent economic trends such as lower inflation, favourable fuel prices and growing consumer confidence, but the caution shown by shoppers this weekend was attributed to a combination of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming election and gloomy weather. While footfall on the high street was down 2% over the whole weekend and down 10% on Good Friday compared with the previous year, the UK's retail parks saw footfall increase by 2.7%, above the 1.6% growth forecast. In addition, Springboard said that the high street was hit by an 11% increase in online activity on Good Friday alone.


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