Fashion and footwear shoppers spent less across all sales channels in October than they did a year ago – with a greater proportion of that spending taking place online ever before, new official figures suggest. Commentators suggest shoppers are holding out for Black Friday discounting.
A record proportion (18.2%) of all textile, clothing and footwear sales were made over the internet during the month, even as the total amount spent in the sector fell, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Retail sales report for October 2018. Online sales of textiles, clothing and footwear grew by 14.3% on the same time last year, but fell by 1.6% on the previous month. Across all retail channels, spending on clothing and footwear was down by 1% on the same time last month, with the three month trend down by 0.3%. “While total retail spending in this sector reported a fall in October, consumers increased their online spending for the foods that they did purchase in clothing stores,” said the ONS report.
The wider picture online
Meanwhile, 18% of all retail sales took place online. Online spending grew relatively strongly across all categories when compared to a year earlier, but less strongly compared to a month earlier. Overall online sales grew by 12.6% year-on-year (YOY), with department store (+15.9%), household goods (+26.5%) and ‘other retailers’, including computer and telecoms retailers, up by 25.8%, alongside the growth in clothing and footwear reported above. Non-store retailers, predominantly pureplay traders but also including auctions and market traders, saw their online sales rise by 11%. Online food sales grew by 1.8% on last year.
But compared to September 2018, online sales rose by a more modest 1.2%, along with sales of food (+0.2%) and household goods (+2.3%) and for non-store retailers (+1.4%). The ‘other retailers’ category saw month-on-month sales grow by 6.1% – within that, computer and telecoms retailers saw their sales grow strongly thanks to new releases of smartphone handsets. But there were falls for department stores (-0.5%) and textile, clothing and footwear stores (-1.6%).
Spending across retail
Across all retail channels, shoppers spent 3.4% more in October than they did at the same time last year to buy 2.7% more goods, excluding automotive fuel. But they spent 0.6% less than they did a month ago to buy 0.4% less goods, excluding fuel, with marked declines in spending on household goods (-3%) and clothing (-1%). This latter decline, suggested the ONS drawing on retailer comments, might be down to relatively mild October weather. Food spending, meanwhile, rose by 0.4% month on month.
The wider trend, in the three months to October 2018, showed shoppers spending 0.8% more to buy 0.4% more goods, with spending on household goods up by 3.5%.
Waiting for Black Friday?
Commenting, Philipp Gutzwiller, head of retail at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “People’s shopping habits have been changing for a few years, but now that change is accelerating.
“Consumers are increasingly savvy and seem to be taking advantage of steep discounting by bringing forward their Christmas shopping and spreading it out over three or even four months. This might explain why so many retailers have decided not to take part in Black Friday later this month.
“Retailers who are happy to have the confirmed spend in their tills rather than wait until December won’t mind, but it does mean that they are likely to use more discounts to persuade people to top up with a few unplanned extras, or by spending more on perishable festive goods like food and drink.
“In the meantime, all retailers will be hoping that consumers soon show signs of not only feeling they have a bit more to spend this year, thanks to rising real wages and record employment, but more importantly that they have the confidence to spend it.”
Claire Mullan, head of marketing and PR at global affiliate network Awin said: “Despite the fall in retail sales during October, it is reported that the growth in the share of online sales as a total of all retailing has continued to rise, showing that consumers are placing increasing trust in purchasing online.
“Whilst the fall in retail sales is a way off the predicted 0.2% rise, this is particularly pronounced when compared with a strong summer. The incredible weather during the summer and events such as the World Cup led to a great season for retailers – for example, Awin reported a 16.59% increase in the sale of sportswear and equipment during the World Cup when compared with the same period last year.
“With November becoming the ultimate month of discounting and sales, consumers may have tightened their purse strings during October in order to take maximum advantage of Black Friday and the rest of the sales.”