Friday 6 September 2019 12:01 am

Hot weather fails to heat up high street retail sales in August

Bricks and mortar retailers suffered a further blow last month as soaring temperatures failed to heat up high street sales. 

Like-for-like in store sales dropped 0.1 per cent in August from a base of minus 2.7 per cent in the same month last year as retailers were unable to convert rising footfall into purchases.

Read more: UK retail sales beat expectations in July

The lifestyle category recorded its 19 month of no growth as sales slumped a further 1.8 per cent, according to the latest High Street Sales Tracker from accountancy firm BDO. 

Following an eight month run of in-store sales growth, homeware sales fell 0.8 per cent from minus 6.1 per cent in 2018. 

Back to school promotions helped boost fashion sales by 0.9 per cent from a base of minus 3.6 per cent in August last year. 

Online shopping continued to rise during August’s heatwave, increasing 18.6 per cent from growth of 13.7 per cent. 

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “2019 continues to deliver bad news for the British high street, with crumbling consumer confidence and growing uncertainty discouraging discretionary spend. 

“Despite some improvement in footfall in the final week of August, retailers were unable to convert this into higher sales. With another worrying month of no growth and a government distracted by Brexit negotiations and now a potential General Election, retailers are heading into the crucial Christmas period on very unsteady footing.”

Read more: Retailers warned to ramp up contingency plans as sales growth slumps

Earlier this week retailers were warned to prepare for further political and economic turbulence as a separate tracker also revealed slumping sales. 

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin said businesses should “have rigorous contingency plans in place” as “the only thing that is certain in the coming months is further uncertainty”. 

The industry reiterated calls for the government to take action on the challenges facing the UK high street.

Michael added: “The current political and economic uncertainty is adding to the struggles of cash-strapped retailers and their increasing reluctance to make investment decisions. 

“The sector is in desperate need for the government to take action, provide some clarity and give retailers the confidence to make the necessary investment to deliver long-term growth.”

A string of prominent retailers have launched restructuring processes in recent months as the gloom on the high street shows no sign of lifting. 

Sir Philip Green’s retail empire Arcadia is implementing a rescue plan which will allow rent cuts of up to 70 per cent at nearly 200 UK stores and the closure of 23 branches. 

Read more: Innovation boosts online retail sales

Meanwhile, Debenhams is in court this week as it fights a challenge to its restructuring plan backed by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley. 

British Land has filed a legal challenge to Monsoon Accessorize’s company voluntary arrangement, it was reported yesterday.

Main image credit: Getty