Decline in sales and footfall starts to slow

THE UK high street has reported a drop in sales and footfall after April’s bumper figures, but the latest numbers suggest the underlying decline in retailers’ fortunes is slowing down.

Total sales in May fell 0.1 per cent year-on-year, with good weather and seasonal promotions boosting trade, according to the May figures from BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker.

High-street data firm Springboard also said that footfall on the UK’s shopping streets had fallen in May, dropping 1.5 per cent compared to last year.

But the slump in footfall was far smaller than in 2010 (-3.2 per cent) and 2009 (-4.3 per cent), suggesting that annual declines are softening.

The momentum created by April’s good weather and extended bank holidays seems to have continued into the first few weeks in May as sales carried on growing on a like-for-like basis, but this dropped away steeply in the final week, when overall results were down 6.9 per cent, said BDO.

Online sales propped up the overall picture, up an average of 24.5 per cent over the month, and offsetting heavy losses in homewares in particular.

“Consumers started to spend in April but the fact remains that we all have less money than we did a year ago,” said BDO’s Don Williams. “There are still opportunities for retailers, however, the lack of sales growth shows that they can’t rest on their laurels in their bid to woo shoppers.”