Shoppers abandoned the high street in August, sales tracker finds

Shoppers took a holiday from the high street this summer, with sales in August at their worst in three years, according to an accountancy and business advisory firm.

UK high street sales fell by 2.7% year-on-year – the worst August decline for three years, BDO’s high street sales tracker said.

The report also said it was one of the worst Augusts seen since records started in 2006.

The fashion sector saw its worst August since 2015, with sales down in-store in every week of August.

Homeware stores saw sales growth plummet by 6.1% year-on-year in August – the worst August for homeware since 2012.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “With inflation continuing to bite on the weekly shop and the heatwave driving discretionary spending to bars and entertaining, there is even less disposable income heading to the high street.

“There are signs that retailer margins are being protected through tighter management of stock levels and shortening discount periods.

“However, next month is going to be an important bellwether for retailers leading into the crucial last quarter of the calendar year.”

She said that in a climate of rising interest rates, rising prices and subdued real wage growth, “there is limited discretionary spend left and that is taking its toll on fashion and homeware sales, especially bigger ticket items”.

Ms Michael continued: “As always, there will be winners and losers in retail as we enter the crucial last quarter of the year.

“With the holiday season over and most now returning to work, spending levels in the next six to eight weeks will quickly identify those retailers that have created a formula for success.”