High street sales falter in May as retailers struggle against online surge

Helen Cahill
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Shopping for goods is falling out of fashion (Source: Getty)

High street sales faltered again last month as physical retailers battled against the growth in online shopping.

On a like-for-like basis, sales fell by 1.3 per cent on the high street in May as compared to the same month the year before, according to figures from BDO.

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The fashion sector was one of the hardest hit, with sales down 3.6 per cent year-on-year. BDO said the fashion industry has now been in a "downward spiral" for four years.

There was, however, some good news: sales of lifestyle goods grew 3.9 per cent, the sixth consecutive month of growth for the sector.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: "Prolonged blanket discounting is not sustainable but shoppers need incentives to make the purchase. So it appears that most retailers have chosen to run targeted, short-term discounting in an attempt to ignite spending and protect further erosion to margins."

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However, she said retailers need to make sure they are selling good products, and that consumers are still enjoying shopping on the high street. Increasingly, shoppers need a reason to move beyond their laptop screens to buy goods.

Research from Retail Economics released today found that nearly half (43 per cent) of shoppers would spend more money in a store if they were given a "meaningful shopping experience" by a retailer.

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Nearly two-thirds of people are more likely to shop somewhere that has a cafe, restaurant or bar, the research showed.

Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, said: "UK retail is undergoing significant structural change. A behavioural revolution is taking place through a transformational shift in what people value most — experiences.

"Retailers’ abilities to predict, analyse and adapt to forthcoming waves of these behavioural shifts will stand as the differentiating factor from their competitors."

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