Retailers delay promotions as May sales falter

Kasmira Jefford
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HIGH-street fashion retailers moved to stem a decline in sales last month by holding out for full prices and refusing to discount in the face of the coldest spring in 50 years, figures released today show.

Infographic: Mixed month on the high street Accountancy firm BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker shows like-for-like high street fashion sales dipped by 1.4 per cent in May after a sharp 10.5 per cent decline in the final week dragged the month into negative territory.

Don Williams, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said despite the fall in sales, fashion stores had learnt lessons from previous years by deciding to discount later in the season.

“We’re seeing less over commitment to stock levels, which allows retailers to hold out a bit longer for better weather and full price sales,” he said.

“By factoring in lower sales forecasts and not over-committing to initial stock purchases, retailers are striving to avoid the cash flow difficulties that led to ‘blood on the high street’ in previous years,” Williams added.

While clothing continued to struggled, non-fashion sales grew strongly – up 8.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis – as people purchasing goods ahead of the two May bank holidays helped to boost demand.

Homewares also grew for the fourth consecutive month – up 4.6 per cent – leading to an overall like-for-like high street sales rise of 0.8 per cent.

Online sales stormed ahead, rising 26.5 per cent year-on-year, BDO said.

Meanwhile London’s West End continued to defy the challenges seen across the rest of the UK’s high streets, reporting a record £380m of spend over the half term week to 1 June.

The New West End Company, which represents businesses on Regent Street, Oxford Street and Bond Street, said a surge in Russian and Middle Eastern visitors helped lift footfall by 6.7 per cent.