Clothing sales fizzled out in the wettest June on record

Clothing sales fizzled out in the wettest June on record

UK retailers were saved by the Jubilee holiday last month as a so-called "bunting boost" helped drive demand at the beginning of the period - but the wettest June on record also meant sales of summer clothing and footwear were a washout.

Figures released today (10 July) by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed UK retail sales values were up 1.4% on a like-for-like basis from June last year. On a total basis, sales were up 3.5%.

But while the Jubilee celebrations and warm weather helped lift sales of shorts, dresses and sandals at start of the period, the rest of the month proved much more challenging for discretionary items as consumers' underlying caution about the economy, jobs and their personal finances curtailed spending.

Online (including mail-order and phone) sales of non-food items showed stronger growth, up 12.1% against growth of 11.5% last year.

"It was the bunting boost," said BRC director general Stephen Robertson. "June was saved by the feel-good lift of the Jubilee, showing how crucial these temporary factors are in our difficult trading conditions.

"Sadly the soggy celebrations over the Jubilee weekend itself, which heralded the start of the wettest June on record, were followed by far weaker business for the rest of the month. Belts were tightened again and the lower temperatures cooled demand for summer fashions and outdoor leisure goods."

Robertson added: "With the first half of the year complete, we can see total sales growth between this January and June was no better than in 2011. It's clear a permanent upturn in confidence and spending has yet to happen."

Commenting on the figures, analyst Darren Shirley at Shore Capital Stockbrokers points out that: "Below the sound but far from stellar sales lines there is pressure on margins.

"In the apparel segment the dismal British weather had meant slow-moving summer lines, particularly ladies' wear, and so 'The Sales' have commenced early and have cut quite deep. What the gross margin impact will be remains to be seen."

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, which helps compile the monthly retail sales monitor, notes retailers are fervently hoping that the summer of sport will raise cash for their coffers.

"But the reality is that any benefit from the Olympics will probably be concentrated in the South East and provide more of a boost for food than non-food," she said. "Overall there will be plenty of hype, a short term blip of benefit, and then back to normality and the challenges that brings."