High Street sales frozen by the heatwave

The prolonged hot weather and World Cup fever has scorched the UK high street with retailers suffering another month of negative growth, figures show.

The high street saw a 1.1% fall in total like-for-like sales in July, the sixth month in a row of negative figures, according to accountancy and business advisory firm BDO's High Street Sales Tracker.

Heavy discounting led to sales growing 1% year-on-year in the first week of July, but footfall fell away because of the dual distractions of scorching sunshine and England's unexpected progress in the World Cup.

Sales declined by more than 2% in weeks two and three and remained flat in week four as the heatwave intensified.

Year-on-year fashion sales grew 1.3% in July, the first time since September last year that in-store fashion like-for-like sales had grown by as much as 1%, but this was against a soft base of minus 3.5% for July 2017.

The lifestyle sector struggled in July, dropping 2.6% as retailers failed to match the strong performance of a year earlier when Sterling was low and tourist numbers were high.

However homewares was the hardest hit sector, dropping 11.8% to mark the third month of double digit declines this year.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said the broader picture pointed to a tough summer on the high street.

She said: "We've now had six consecutive months with no in-store growth.

"While the sunshine and buzz around England's World Cup run was a boost for pubs and supermarkets, the scorching conditions did not encourage physical shopping and only hindered footfall in shops.

"Actions taken by retailers, including early and widespread discounting to attract shoppers, will have had a further dent on operating margins.

"While temperatures may have been rising, retailers are being frozen out. Concerns overs personal finances and the general economic outlook has had a downward drag on consumer confidence," she said.

"Summer is proving to be something of a disaster for shops and, with a poor first six months, the pressure is on for retailers to do all they can do to mitigate the impact of 2018 being an unprecedentedly tough year."

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