Despite a rise in footfall, year-on-year fashion sales fell again in March

Despite a rise in footfall, year-on-year fashion sales fell again in March

The UK's high street is struggling to lift itself out of a lengthy slump, with UK retailers failing to grow sales for the fourth month in a row, according to new figures.

The just-released numbers from accountancy and business advisory firm BDO show like-for-like sales were flat (0%) in March despite warmer weather and Mother's day helping to footfall in three out of four weeks.

Its High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) also points to disappointing year-on-year fashion sales, which dropped -0.8% in March from -2.5% in the same period last year. However, the sector actually performed better than previous months, it notes. In February, like-for-like sales declined 3.4% – the worst result for the sector since September 2016. 

Among the best performing sectors in the month were lifestyle (with sales up 1.4% year-on-year) and homewares (up 1.8% year-on-year, although growth is beginning to slow). 

However, while retailers struggled to convert buoyant footfall into bricks-and-mortar sales, they did fare better online with non-store sales up by 28.1% – the highest monthly result seen since January 2015 (up 37.8).

"March 2017 is the fourth month in a row to see no growth on the high street despite a notable rise in footfall," explains Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP.

"The new season should have triggered high street spending, and retailers will be questioning why they have been unable to convert shoppers into buyers.   

"As inflation is beginning to be felt against a backdrop of economic uncertainties, it is ever more important that retailers focus on product, quality and range. With a tightening consumer purse, shoppers will become increasingly choosy about how they spend their pound.

"Retailers have clearly got a challenge ahead of them and will have to go the extra mile to differentiate their products and stores."