UK consumers shopping the high street for full price merchandise dipped in February, following a bright start to the new year when there were plenty of bargains to lure them out.
High street sales fell 1.7 percent last month, the first February dip since 2012 when sales slipped 1.5 percent, according to accountancy firm BDO’s monthly tracker.
It comes after a 1.4 percent jump in sales in January, mainly led by a strong performance in the first two weeks during the annual clearance period.
The lifestyle sector remained strong with sales up 0.8 percent but fashion sales declined, down 2.9 percent year-on-year. Homewares sales fell by 0.5 percent.
By contrast, non-store sales leapt 18.3 percent compared with the same period last year. BDO’s head of retail and wholesale Sophie Michael said sales growth already began to trail off from the middle of January, when the discounting season ended and retailers started to bring in full-price spring lines.
Shoppers are looking for bargains
“The canny consumer continues to shop for bargains. Retailers have to find ways of enticing the customer back into store during full price periods through a rich product mix and the right customer experience,” she said.
Separate figures from the Local Data Company (LDC) also show that the number of empty stores fell in the second half of the year as restaurants and other leisure operators rushed to take up space left vacant by retailers. LDC said there were 47,597 empty units in H2 taking the national vacancy rate to 11.5 percent from 11.7 percent in H1. The best performing region was London at 7.6 percent while the worst with a vacancy rate of 16.7 percent was the north east. Shopping centres had the highest vacancy rate at 14.1 percent followed by town centres, 11.2 percent, and retail parks at 6.2 percent.