Last-minute back-to-school purchases helped to boost clothing and footwear sales

Last-minute back-to-school purchases helped to boost clothing and footwear sales

UK fashion sales increased in September as autumnal weather encouraged shoppers to buy new season ranges and last-minute back-to-school items, helping overall sales to grow at their fastest pace since January last year. 

The latest BRC-KPMG Retail/Online Sales Monitor report shows UK retail sales increased 3.9%, compared to a 0.8% fall in September 2014 – the fastest growth since January 2014, excluding Easter distortions. On a like-for-like basis, sales were up 2.6% from the prior year, when they fell 2.1% year-on-year. 

BRC said the inclusion of the bank holiday into the September period positively distorted the figures of the back-to-school-sensitive categories, particularly fashion categories. The figures were also flattered by a soft comparable period last year, it added. 

As a result, clothing achieved its best result since August 2014, with strong demand for full-priced, new season ranges. The children's and men's categories grew at their fastest rate since August last year and December 2011 respectively. 

Footwear had its best performance since March of last year, with children's growing at its highest pace since September 2012 as shoppers made the most of retailers’ fitting services. 

“September was a bright month for retail, with the strongest sales performance since January of last year, excluding Easter distortions,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson. 

“However, sales growth was boosted by the August Bank Holiday, which fell in this period as opposed to August last year, shifting back-to-school sales into September, so such strong growth is likely to be overstated.”

Online sales of non-food products grew 14.2% in September versus a year earlier, when they increased 8.2% year-on-year, the second-slowest growth of 2014. 

Online clothing sales came third in the ranking table and were the largest contributor to non-food e-commerce sales growth. Online footwear sales were overshadowed by those made in-store as is the preference during the back-to-school shopping season. 

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: “Moving into the final quarter of 2015, retailers will be keeping a watchful eye on Christmas with the launch of festive campaigns starting to wet consumers’ appetites and Black Friday expected to be big again.”