Halloween fails to breathe life into high street sales

The increasing popularity of Halloween has failed to stop the UK high street suffering its ninth negative month in a row for in-store sales, figure show.

Sales fell by 2% year-on-year in October to mark 13 months since in-store growth exceeded 1%, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.

Not even increased activity in the build-up to Halloween could stop the high street suffering a disappointing start to the “golden quarter” as shoppers held out for discounts in the now traditional November discounting season.

Like-for-like sales of lifestyle goods and homewares have recorded negative growth every month since January, falling by 2.9% and 4.1% respectively for October.

The cold snap at the end of the month provided a small boost to fashion sales but could not prevent an overall sales dip of 1.3% for the month.

Online retailers also suffered, with sales for October growing by just 10.5% – the third lowest monthly result since the tracker began recording the data in 2010.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said the second poor October in a row was a “real worry” for stores.

She said: “Retailers have seen margins squeezed all year and now they enter a lengthy discounting period in the lead-up to Black Friday.

“Such a weak start to the final quarter will have been tough to swallow, and this could easily be the new normal for October as shoppers hold back their discretionary spending until they start seeing bargains.”

Ms Michael said most high street retailers would have taken little solace from Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget cut to business rates.

She added: “While the smallest retail businesses will feel the benefit of the cuts announced, they do nothing to support the larger retailers that shoulder almost 70% of the rates burden.

“The recent trading updates, declining footfall and falling like-for-like high street sales clearly needed more substantial action whilst longer term in-depth reviews take place.”