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Retail sales fall again in March

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Total in-store and online sales fell 2.2% in March, marking the sixth consecutive month of negative sales results, becoming the longest consecutive period of negative growth outside of the pandemic.

Despite Mother’s Day and the Easter bank holiday, in-store sales were negative for the fourth month in a row (-1.8%). The new data from BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker also showed that there were sharp falls in both fashion and homewares sales.

Homeware sales fell by 10.9%, the lowest monthly result for this category since May 2022. The lifestyle sector performed slightly better, with sales up +0.9% compared to the same month last year.

Non-store sales were negative at -2.3%, following three successive months of positive results.

Fashion was the only non-store category to see positive results in March but the growth of 1.5% failed to offset the negative in-store sales, which declined by 6.0%. Earlier this month, the Office for National Statistics reported growth in clothing sales, as people invested in the new season’s collections.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, commented: “Going into April, retailers will see their costs rise even higher with the uplift in the national minimum wage and increased business rates leaving very little room to spend on investment, promotions or other ways of encouraging consumer spending.

“Elsewhere, there are reports that order levels fell in March and are expected to fall further in April, showing no signs of appetite for consumers to increase discretionary spend. Retailers will be fixated on managing their cost base to ride out what continues to be a challenging trading period, with no notable recovery on the horizon just yet.”

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