Halloween heatwave gives retailers a scary outlook

Kasmira Jefford
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The mild autumn weather has put off shoppers looking for winter clothes
Retailers suffered another month of lacklustre sales in October as the mild weather and supermarket price wars continued to weigh on the sector, despite a slight bounce back on the previous month.

Like-for-like retail sales were flat in October, an improvement on the 2.1 per cent reported in September but a slowdown on the same month last year when sales rose 0.8 per cent.

Total sales were up 1.4 per cent and rose by one per cent in the three months to October after a weak performance from Britain’s food sector, which fell by 1.4 per cent.

Non-food sales were up 2.8 per cent over the same period, according data out today from KPMG and the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

"Looking at these figures, most retailers will feel they were tricked rather than treated in October,” KPMG’s head of retail, David McCorquodale, said.

“Even the most experienced of shopkeepers could not have foreseen a heatwave at Hal­loween and most were left with sales which were flat at best.

“Sadly, this warmer weather has left many fashion retailers with a substantial stock overhang, raising the question of earlier and deeper discounts as we get closer to Christmas.”

This was supported by separate data, released yesterday by Visa Europe, showing a 2.7 per cent fall in spending on clothing and footwear in October, albeit at a slower rate than the previous month when sales declined by 6.5 per cent.

Online sales of non-food products grew 15.4 per cent in October compared with a year earlier, when it had grown 12.1 per cent.

This was the highest online growth since Christmas 2013.

Last month, the BRC reported the weakest underlying performance by high street and online stores since the depth of the 2008-09 recession.

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