Sep 17, 2021
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UK department stores struggled last month but clothing sector stayed positive

Sep 17, 2021

August retail sales volumes surprisingly fell, on a month-on-month basis, in Britain the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday. Volumes were down by 0.9%, with non-food store sales volumes down 1%, driven by a 3.7% fall at department stores, while sports stores were also weak.

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Department stores have struggled since April’s reopening and their sales volumes have fallen in each consecutive month. But at least clothing stores did well, relatively speaking. They were the only category in the non-food section to be in positive territory with a 0.7% month-on-month rise.

Sales volumes were flat year-on-year but 4.6% higher than February 2020 before the pandemic.

It wasn’t only sales volumes that were down either as overall sales by value also edged down 0.3% compared to July, but they were up 3.6% year-on-year (partly fuelled by inflation) and up nearly 7% compared to February 2020.

Meanwhile, although online sales growth is slowing, the proportion of retail sales happening online rose to 27.7% in August from 27.1% in July, substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020.

But again, department stores struggled with a 14.3% year-on-year sales drop and a 1.7% month-on-month fall. Yet while textile, clothing and footwear e-stores were down 0.9% month-on-month, their sales were up 2.3% year-on-year.

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