Retailers blame late bank hols for drop in sales

Kasmira Jefford
Follow Kasmira
BRITISH retailers suffered a sharp drop in sales last month after the later timing of the August Bank Holiday distorted trading figures, according to figures out today.

Retail sales fell by one per cent on a like-for-like basis from August 2014, when they had increased 1.3 per cent on the preceding year.

On a total basis, sales were up 0.1 per cent compared with a 2.7 per cent rise the same time last year, British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG said.

The August Bank Holiday weekend took place a week later than last year, pushing sales of back to school items into September instead, the trade body said.

Clothing, footwear, stationery, furniture and household appliances all experienced declines, with total non-food sales falling for the first time in 12 months.

This was made worse by the wet weather, which put shoppers off visiting the high street.

However grocers fared better, with total food sales up 0.3 per cent in the three months to August.

“There was better news for food sales this August with a clear im­provement compared with July,” BRC director general, Helen Dickinson, said.

“This, coupled with a positive 12 month average for the first time since August of last year, suggests there may be cause for optimism for food sales following a prolonged period of stagnation,” she added.

The set of data follows research from accountancy firm BDO last week that showed a 4.3 per cent year-on-year fall in August sales, making it the worst month for British retail sales since the global financial crisis of 2008.

Figures from retail analysts Spring­board also revealed a decline in footfall at high street stores over the long weekend as the rain drove people to shopping centres instead. KPMG’s head of retail David McCorquodale said retailers will be hoping to recoup some of August’s missed sales this month: “September sales will get a shot in the arm from the Bank Holiday and the comradery of the Rugby World Cup.”

“However, the fashion world will be hoping that last year’s Indian summer does not repeat itself, resulting in heavy discounting to move seasonal items,” he said.

Meanwhile, online sales of non-food products grew six per cent in August compared with 19.8 per cent last year.

This was the slowest growth registered since April 2013.