Clothing recorded its worst three-month average performance since February 2009

Clothing recorded its worst three-month average performance since February 2009

Distractions provided by the Olympic Games, coupled with warmer-than-expected weather as autumn fashions arrived in stores, weighed on UK retail sales in August – despite consumer confidence being up on July. 

Total retail sales dropped 0.3% in August compared with a 0.1% rise in the same month last year, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail/Online Sales Monitor, while on a like-for-like basis, sales were down 0.9% year-on-year. 

Clothing recorded its worst three-month average performance since February 2009, despite the month starting well with a good supply of summer items in the clearance sales. However, the warm weather continued into August, making the full price transitional items arriving into stores unattractive. Women's clothing was daffected the most, becoming the worst performing category last month. 

On top of this, the back-to-school period started a week later than last year, compounding the footfall deficit and leading to a decline for the children's category. Men's clothing also recorded a small decline but was the best performing segment thanks to better demand for some transitional pieces. 

Footwear, meanwhile, was the worst performing category in August, driven by the late timing of back-to-school. Sport styles continued to prove popular, as did plimsolls, but men's footwear – the least weather-sensitive – was the only one to post growth last month.

The BRC said consumers were enticed towards leisure and outdoor activities rather than shopping in August as a result of the Olympic Games, with CEO Helen Dickinson adding: "A month of extraordinary achievement for Team GB certainly produced a feel-good effect and consumer confidence was up on July, but that generally didn't translate into extra sales.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added that August's sales paint a disappointing picture given previous signs of encouragement.

"Sales of women's fashions performed particularly poorly, despite widespread promotions. The warmer weather made it almost too hot to shop and dissuaded shoppers from looking at the newly arrived autumn products."

Nonetheless, online sales of non-food products rose 6.2% year-on-year in August. Clothing online lost a little ground, however, despite a strong comeback in July thanks to widespread promotions.

With summer still in full swing and some schools starting slightly later this year, there was little impetus to start making autumnal purchases. Even so, online continued to account for a significant 20.2% of total non-food retail sales.