'Glacial' growth for the high street in January

High-street retailers mustered only "glacial" growth in January as consumers shifted their spending from material goods to experiences, figures have shown.

Total like-for-like sales grew at 0.6% last month as stores avoided a repeat of the previous January's 0.1% fall, according to advisory firm BDO's high street sales tracker.

Sales of lifestyle goods and homewares both recorded year-on-year increases of 0.8%, with fashion stores recording a like-for-like increase of 0.5%.

Excluding last January, the growth during the traditional post-Christmas discounting season was the lowest seen in five years.

The poor figures for the New Year sales follow a disastrous festive quarter of trading when overall like-for-like high street sales dropped 2.3% in December alone, the fifth successive December to record negative sales growth.

However, retailers failed to attract online shoppers during the month's cold weather as sales grew by just 17.4%, the first January to post growth below 20% since 2010.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said: "The glacial pace of growth on the high street reflected the extent to which consumers are shifting their spending from material goods to experiences while simultaneously seeing their disposable income shrink.

"High-street retailers face intense competition for consumers' attention at the moment.

"In the battle for the consumer purse and with so much choice across all retail channels, it is vital that retailers maintain their investment in the customer experience and a differentiated product while protecting their margins against the backdrop of rising retailer costs."

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