The warm weather that began in September and carried through into the first week of October has taken a heavy toll on retail sales.
The High Street Sales Tracker from accountancy group BDO – whose statistics exclude those of the large grocers – found that trading conditions during September worsened significantly, with like-for-like sales slumping by 4% when compared with September 2010. That is the fastest rate of fall since February 2009.
Fashion stores, now trying to sell autumn and winter lines, were hit particularly badly by the unseasonably warm weather, down 5.1%, although homewares, where sales fell by just 0.9%, escaped the downturn relatively well.
“Demand across homewares was lacklustre but it was not quite as bad as other parts of the high street,” said BDO. “There was some evidence of near normal trading spurred by promotions.”
By contrast, non-store takings were up 23%, although, said BDO, they “increased by lower than average, possibly reflecting the lower levels of demand experienced across the wider high street”.
Meanwhile, with the heatwave continuing into October, retail bellwether John Lewis watched sales dive in every one of its stores last week, reporting a 10% fall in like-for-likes.
Fashion was down by13% and homewares by almost 6%.
The worst drops in sales were in the Southampton and Bluewater stores, where the figures were down by nearly 24% and 28% respectively.