Fashion sales "struggled" in February

Fashion sales "struggled" in February

UK clothing and footwear sales "struggled" in February as mixed weather conditions deterred consumers from spending in store, with retailers now looking for a sunny March to launch their new season ranges. 

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail/Online Sales Monitor, UK retail sales climbed 1.1% in February, down from the 1.7% increase in the same month the year before. On a like-for-like basis, sales edged up 0.1% from a year ago, when they rose 0.2%. 

Both clothing and footwear experienced declines in store on a like-for-like basis. 

BRC said fashion categories struggled as the volatility of the weather meant shoppers had no strong incentive to buy in the new spring/summer clothing ranges. Sales growth was generally promotion-driven in the autumn/winter ranges, with all of it coming from online. 

Having said that, retailers said branded pieces of clothing became more attractive to consumers – an encouraging sign they are willing to upscale at the right price. 

There was also good demand for essentials, nightwear around Valentine's Day, jeans and sportswear for all segments. The best performing category was children's, but not all retailers were pleased with their schoolwear performance over the half-term. 

Footwear was at the bottom of the growth rankings table in February, with two of the three segments showing declines. Men's grew thanks to a good reaction to clearance sales of boots and winter ranges in general. Covered shoes and ankle boots were also popular in the other categories, as opposed to new season ranges. 

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: "With the implementation of the National Living Wage only weeks away, all the focus is on promotional activity to drive sales and on productivity to protect margins. 

"With fashion design choices made and an early Easter this year, clothing retailers will be hoping for March sunshine to launch the new season's wares." 

Online sales of non-food products increased 10.7% in February versus a year earlier, when they rose 8.3%. Clothing was the second strongest contributor to online growth, with women's accessories particularly strong. Women's performed ahead of the men's and children's categories. 

Meanwhile, online footwear sales growth was slightly ahead of January, but still subdued and came last on the online rankings table.