Warmer weather boosted UK fashion sales in March

Warmer weather boosted UK fashion sales in March

UK fashion sales performed "relatively well" in March, analysts say, helped by warmer weather and the launch of spring and summer ranges.

UK retail sales were down 1.7% on a like-for-like basis compared to March last year, when they grew 1.9% on the year before, the BRC/KPMG Retail Sales Monitor found.

Total sales slipped 0.3% against a 3.7% increase in the prior year. Last year's figures included a boost from the earlier timing of Easter. 

"Fashion performed relatively well in March, helped by both warmer weather which helped shift spring merchandise and some strong design stories from a number of high street retailers," said Conlumino analyst Neil Saunders. 

"This was combined with a greater willingness to spend from consumers, many of whom continue to invest in higher priced, quality items."

Dresses, blouses, slippers, and men's shorts were cited as particularly strong while men's sport items didn't sell as well. Children's clothing outperformed expectations. 

Footwear, meanwhile, was the "best performing" category in March, albeit against a weak comparative period last year. Women's experienced the strongest growth, helped by sales of seasonal items such as flat shoes and pumps. 

For children, school shoes, canvasses and sandals saw good demand. 

Online sales of non-food products jumped 12.8% year-on-year in March, with clothing and footwear contributing to over a third of the non-food online growth. 

More importantly, without the online growth, non-food sales would have actually declined for a second consecutive month

"These sales figures are stronger than might have been expected given the fact that Easter has fallen so late this year," said BRC director general Helen Dickinson.

"Retailers have worked hard to create popular new collections, and have been rewarded with strong demand for women's clothing and footwear in particular. This improves on the slow start to the season last year when shoppers were more reluctant to spruce up their wardrobes."

While David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG concluded: "Putting Easter distortions aside, the overall picture looks encouraging."