Heat wave hits high street sales

deckchairs on beachHigh street sales fell flat in July as consumers put their feet up in the heatwave rather than going shopping, figures show today.

Retailers also appeared to lose out as a result of sporting triumphs for Andy Murray and England's cricketers that kept many viewers glued to their screens rather than out spending.

Sales were negative compared to last year for two weeks of the month but surged in the final week after the main sporting fixtures finished, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.

For the whole month, sales were 0% changed on July last year. They had gone up 0.7% in June.

Fashion saw a 1.1% dip compared to last year. Retailers were thought to have been caught on the hop by the weather, unsure whether to switch at this stage to autumnal lines or stick with summer ranges. Other areas saw better performance, with non-fashion up 3.4% and homeware rose by 4.2%.

The last week of the month provided a boost to retailers, with overall sales up 6.3% year-on-year, including homeware up 24.5%, non-fashion up 11.6% and even fashion climbing, by 3.4%.

Don Williams, national head of retail and wholesale at accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP, said discount strategies had helped retailers protect profit margins though consumer caution and weather proved a challenge.

He said: "On the positive side, discounting is nowhere near as deep or widespread as last year, and fashion stores are being really canny about buying stock specifically for discounting to get people through the door and in front of full price lines.

"But aside from market leaders such as Next and Zara, there is still simply not enough flexibility and speed in most retailers' supply chains.

"The results show how weather extremes can send things out of kilter for retailers who don't have the ability to react quickly and haven't invested in their products and customer experience.

"There's an opportunity coming in the autumn as consumer confidence starts to gain momentum, and retailers need to make sure they are positioned to take advantage."

The figures were the result of an analysis of like-for-like spending an non-grocery retailers with annual sales of between £5 million and £500 million.

© 2013 Press Association

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