Apr 9, 2021
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Fashion gets a boost in March with consumers in a spending mood - BDO

Apr 9, 2021

March retail sales indicated a “brighter spring” for UK stores and especially the fashion sector, BDO said in its regular monthly High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) report on Friday.

Stores may have been closed but UK shoppers bought plenty of fashion last month - photo: Pixabay/Public domain

It said total like-for-like (LFL) sales, including in-store and online, increased by 42.5% last month. That was great news, although it was flattered by easy comparisons with March 2020 when spending had dropped even before the first lockdown began in the fourth week of the month. March 2020’s HSST was down 17.9%.

The spike this time will have reflected an increasing desire to spend but also retailers being more adept at squeezing sales out of in-store channels than this time a year ago. Back then, Lockdown 1 saw both physical stores and some online shops shutting abruptly as businesses tried to figure out how to continue and what they needed to put in place to protect their workers.

Back with this year, BDO said that during the first week of March, total like-for-like sales increased for only the second time in 2021 by 4.53% from a base of +0.58% for the same week last year. They grew steadily in the ensuing weeks until the final week of March saw total like-for-likes skyrocketing by 131.54%, but from a base of -63.44% for the same week last year when the lockdown had begun.  

All three sectors (Fashion, Lifestyle and Homewares) recorded positive total like-for-like sales in March, as they rallied from a disastrous March 2020 and consumer confidence cautiously grew as the UK faced the end of lockdown. Fashion total like-for-like sales grew by 57.5% from a base of -25.9% for March last year. This marks the first positive result for Fashion since February 2020, buoyed by three weeks of positive like-for-like sales for the sector in March.

And the acceleration of online retail thanks to lockdown restrictions continued as total like-for-likes here grew by 157.2% from a base of +13.7% last year. This was the second best result on record, as e-tail continued to ride a wave of higher spending in the year-to-date.

Meanwhile, The Times cited Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showing that consumer spending rose strongly last week to its highest level since the week before Christmas. It said spending on credit and debit cards rose by 10 percentage points to 88% of the pre-pandemic average in the week to April 1. It was helped by the initial easing of lockdown on March 29.

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