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High street fashion sales drop 8% in April

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UK high street sales fell for the fifth consecutive month in April, down 1.7%, with fashion and homeware both recording negative results.

According to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker, the drop was primarily due to the fall in sales in the fashion sector, with in-stores sales down 8.3% compared to April 2023. The fashion sector’s poor performance means that it has now recorded eight consecutive months of negative in-store sales.

The homewares sector also saw a negative in-store result, with sales down 1.5%. However, online sales provided a small boost, increasing 8.2% in April, bringing the homewares overall total to 1.8% year on year.

The lifestyle sector was the only category to record positive in-store and non-store sales figures last month, also recording 1.8% increase compared to 2023. In-store sales grew by 3.4% whilst non-store increased by 5.8%

Online sales performed better last month, however as overall sales combine ecommerce and in-store results, April remained flat at 0.4%.

“This is yet another disappointing set of results for the retail sector. While an increase in online sales may offer a glimmer of hope, it’s clear that consumers are simply not spending their spare cash on the high street,” said Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO.

“The fashion sector will be particularly concerned by such a poor sales performance in the run up to summer. Unpredictable and unseasonably cold weather may have dampened the mood of shoppers who would usually be investing in their spring and summer wardrobe.

“The competition for the consumer purse has never been fiercer. With us recording a seventh consecutive month of negative or <1% growth for discretionary spend categories, retailers should be realistic in thinking this may not be a temporary trend.

“Those who want to succeed must acknowledge that the competition is not just with other retailers but with the hospitality, leisure and travel sectors, with many choosing ‘experiences’ over products. If sales continue to fall, it may mean we see more consolidation in the sector, more empty stores, and a real risk to a crucial part of the UK economy.”

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