Official UK retail stats show clothing sold well in clearance-focused January

Feb 21, 2020
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January may not have seemed to be the best month for UK retail but according to the latest official figures from the Office for National Statistics, it was a better than expected month for the fashion sector.

Consumers seemed happy to buy more fashion last month but this was driven by price cuts

However, whether the performance translates into higher profits is open to question as it looks like much of the growth was driven by higher volumes, rather than higher values, as retailers cut prices in order to clear inventory to make way for new-season stock.

The ONS said overall volume sales in physical shops and online rose an average of 0.9% during the month, much better than the 0.6% decline in December that set the seal on 2019 being the worst year on record for UK retail. Non-food store sales rose 1.3% on a volume basis. The total value of goods sold during January rose by 1.2%, although with inflation running higher than that figure, it still represents an overall loss.

Online sales continued to figure in consumers’ shopping calculations with e-sales as a proportion of all retailing at 19% in January. While this was down from 19.3% in December 2019, that was to be expected given the higher proportion of sales overall that happen online in the Christmas shopping period.

As mentioned, fashion performed relatively well during the month and the ONS said that textile, clothing and footwear stores saw a sales increase of 3.9% on a volume basis, while department stores were up 1.6%. Non-store retailing rose 2.5%.

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