Clothing sales growth in March has been described as “subdued”

Clothing sales growth in March has been described as “subdued”

Growth of clothing sales in the UK was "subdued" in March, despite overall sales rising at the highest rate in nearly a year thanks to the earlier timing of Easter.

According to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor monthly report, UK retail sales increased 4.7% year-on-year in March, compared to a 0.3% fall in the same period a year ago. Like-for-like sales rose 3.2%, up from a 1.7% decline last year.

Clothing sales growth, however, was "subdued", particularly in the women’s segment, as the colder weather made spring/summer ranges less appealing. Specifically, dresses were impacted, while jeans and light knitwear "did well", the BRC said. The lower footfall experienced in stores was somewhat offset by shoppers buying more full price items, making the sales mix more profitable.

Children’s was the strongest segment, helped by the school holidays and the lead-up to Easter.

Footwear ranked last in terms of sales growth in March, against record growth the year before. The women’s segment performed worst, while men’s was the best. The popularity of ballerinas has faltered while sales of sandals and flip flops were "encouraging".

Excluding online sales, both clothing and footwear would have seen sales decline.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK were up 12.3% in March from a year earlier - the best growth since October last year. While clothing sales reported a penetration rate of 25.1%, a strong 2.5 percentage points ahead of last year, the category remained sixth in the online growth table.

"An early Easter and better economic news helped lift retail sales out of the doldrums in March and the sector posted the strongest sales growth seen in nearly a year," said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson added: "All-in-all, retailers can also be satisfied with the consumer response to their Mother's Day and Easter offerings, but it is important to note that April figures will be impacted by the absence of Easter this year."