UK: Online keeps February clothing sales afloat
The proportion of clothing sales online in February was higher than last year
February was an "average" month for clothing sales, but without strong online growth the category would have reported a decline, new figures suggest.
UK retail sales were down 1% on a like-for-like basis compared to last February, while total sales rose 0.7% - slower than the 4.4% increase in the prior year, the BRC/KPMG Retail Sales Monitor found.
The proportion of clothing sales online in February was 23.6%, a 2.6 percentage point increase on last year, as shoppers favoured browsing over going to the shops, especially in areas worst affected by adverse weather.
Although sales of women's clothing in stores remained sluggish, women's casual and basic items were the most popular.
However, retailers who had stocked a lot of knitwear and outerwear had to run clearance sales to entice customers to buy those items in the mild weather.
For children, pyjamas and dresses experienced the most demand. Sportswear suffered from the wet weather during the month.
In the footwear sector, men's was the best-performing segment in stores last month. The children's category, meanwhile, was weaker - with some retailers blaming the wet weather as parents avoided taking their children shopping.
Footwear also had a good month online, ranking third in the BRC-KPMG growth table. Without online, the category would have reported flat sales. The penetration rate improved 2.7 percentage points to 26.3% in February.
BRC general Helen Dickinson said: "Our sales figures for February show a slower pace of growth in the retail industry than in previous months, underlining that the consumer-led recovery is still developing."
"However, this slower growth might have been expected in some ways, given the record sales figures we saw in January and the strong results that we are comparing against from last year."
While David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: "February saw a hiatus on the high street, with online sales soaring while in store sales stalled.
"There's no doubt inclement weather exacerbated this trend, but it certainly underscores the importance of having a sophisticated online operation."
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