Apr 21, 2023
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Rain stops play - UK fashion retail washed out by poor weather in March

Apr 21, 2023

UK retail sales figures proved disappointing for March with the latest release from the Office for National Statistics on Friday showing volumes are estimated to have fallen by 0.9% month-on-month, having risen by 1.1% in February. Clothing stores struggled as consumers focused on early spring downpours rather than buying fashion pieces for sunnier days.

Photo: Pexels

Looking at the month-on-month value figures, overall sales were down for the same amount as volumes fell – 0.9%. And while values rose 4.5% compared to March 2022, if you take double-digit inflation into account, that still represented an overall drop. In total, volumes were down 3.1% year-on-year.

That said, the broader picture showed sales volumes rose by 0.6% in the three months to March when compared with the previous three months. That was the first quarter-on-quarter rise since August 2021.

Going back to the monthly figures, non-food store sales volumes fell by 1.3%, having risen 2.4% in February, with the ONS, saying that retailers fed back to it that poor weather conditions had affected sales for most of the month.

And non-store retailing (which is predominantly online retailers) sales volumes fell by 0.8%, following a rise of 0.3% in February.

As mentioned, non-food stores were particularly weak last month. Department, clothing, household and other non-food stores suffered as the UK had 155% of average rainfall for the month, making it the sixth wettest March on record since 1836.

Needless to say, there was little appetite for refreshing seasonal wardrobes and the ONS said that within non-food stores, department stores and clothing stores sales volumes fell by 3.2% and 1.7% over the month, respectively.

Other non-food stores, such as jewellery stores and garden centres, fell by 0.6% having seen strong growth in February (+2.9%) because of secondhand goods stores.

As for online, sales here were down but volumes were 19.3% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels. And online textile, clothing and footwear stores rose 4.6% against February and 11.3% compared to March 2022.

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