Fashion retailers hit as high street suffers third consecutive May sales drop

Pedestrians by the shops in Gentleman's Walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Pedestrians by the shops in Gentleman's Walk. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

The high street suffered its third consecutive May of falling sales, with fashion retailers the hardest-hit by tightened household spending.

Like-for-like sales were down 1.3% overall for the month, while fashion stores were hit with a 3.6% fall in year-on-year figures, according to accountancy and business advisory firm BDO's High Street Sales Tracker.

Fashion sales were negative in the first three weeks of May, while the figures for the month make it the fourth of the year recording no in-store growth, suggesting a 'worrying downward spiral' for clothing retailers.

Homeware stores fared better, posting like-for-like growth of 1.2% off a strong base this year, but the lifestyle goods sector was the major winner with a sales boost of 3.9% year on year, buoyed by record tourist numbers and a weak pound.

BDO said reduced spending, resulting from household budgets coming under increasing pressure from rising inflation and low wage increases, was being felt most by fashion retailers.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: 'Retailers are facing turbulent times with rising operational costs, higher import prices and economic uncertainty.

'These factors result in higher inflation and therefore lower discretionary spend.

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'Prolonged blanket discounting is not sustainable, but shoppers need incentives to make the purchase. So it appears that most retailers have chosen to run targeted, short-term discounting in an attempt to ignite spending and protect further erosion to margins.

'They will be hoping for these turbulent times to calm and, once they do, the right strategies should pay dividends.'