Extended discounts helped UK fashion sales to grow in January

Extended discounts helped UK fashion sales to grow in January

UK retail sales bounced back in January from their worst Christmas since 2008, with fashion being the strongest performer, thanks to extended discounts during the month.

According to BDO's monthly High Street Sales Tracker, like-for-like sales at fashion retailers increased 1.9% during the five weeks to 31 January, compared to the same month a year ago. 

The business advisory firm said, unlike last year where there was a notable spike in the first week of the month only, shoppers continued to flock to the high street in the second week of the year as retailers extended discount periods to shift stock which they failed to sell in December. 

However, like-for-like sales did move back into negative territory once the sales period ended and cold weather appeared. 

Overall, like-for-like sales (excluding non-store sales) rose 1.4% after December's 5.3% decline represented the worst Christmas trading results since December 2008.

Non-store sales grew 20.2%, down from last year's 37.8% hike, but above December's 7.5% – the lowest figure recorded since BDO started tracking the sales medium.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said retailers will be feeling better after the disastrous December, but warned shoppers still had a bargain mentality. 

"The lull between Black Friday and the January sales was particularly noticeable at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016," she explained. "Retailers might be getting better at attracting the new generation of savvier shoppers in discounting periods, but margins will suffer unless they sell full-price stock too."

The strong retail performers, she added, demonstrate that consumers are willing to pay full price if they see a desirable product. "The stores that will thrive in 2016 will be the ones who combine a strong customer service proposition with an attractive brand and a compelling product mix."