In October, clothing suffered its first decline in total sales since March

In October, clothing suffered its first decline in total sales since March

Clothing and footwear endured a poor month in UK retail in October, with unseasonably warm weather blamed for the decline.

UK retail sales were up 0.8% on a like-for-like basis compared to last October, while total sales rose 2.6%, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

The BRC said the three-month average total growth figure of 2.8% was much more closely aligned to the 12-month average figure of 2.7%, “suggesting a more sustainable level has been reached”.

But clothing suffered its first decline in total sales since March, and footwear had its worst month since March as well.

The BRC report described October as “a month of two halves” for clothing, with the early days too warm for seasonal ranges and the later part of the month enjoying better sales of heavy coats and warmer clothing.

“There was still a sense of caution in the spending,” it added. “Casual, moderately-priced clothing performed well, and there was a good reaction to promotions, particularly in women’s.”

The main driver of footwear’s poor performance was the warm weather, which encouraged sales of flat shoes rather than more expensive boots, prompting some retailers to bring forward their mid-season sales.

“Consumer confidence paused in October, and while conditions remain challenging, the signs are that customers are managing their budgets well while allowing some leeway for occasional treats,” said Helen Dickinson, BRC director general.

“Retailers will be looking to respond to this appetite for good value with a little luxury here and there in their promotions and product offerings for the Christmas period.”

"While few will light any fireworks to celebrate the latest retail numbers, we can take comfort from the fact that growth rates are very slightly ahead of September and, at the very least, indicate that the sector is now delivering steady and sustainable growth," noted Joseph Robison, lead consultant at retail analyst Conlumino.