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Sluggish UK sales continue

Like-for-like sales in the UK were down 1.3 per cent overall for the month of May, while fashion stores were hit with a 3.6 per cent fall in year-on-year figures.

Fashion sales were negative in the first three weeks of May, while the figures for the month make it the fourth of the year recording no in-store growth, suggesting a worrying downward spiral for clothing retailers.

Home ware stores fared better, posting like-for-like growth of 1.2 per cent off a strong base this year, but the lifestyle goods sector was the major winner with a sales boost of 3.9 per cent year on year, buoyed by record tourist numbers and a weak pound.

Reduced spending, resulting from household budgets coming under increasing pressure from rising inflation and low wage increases, was being felt most by fashion retailers. They are facing turbulent times with rising operational costs, higher import prices and economic uncertainty.

These factors have resulted in higher inflation and therefore lower discretionary spend. Since shoppers need incentives to make purchases, retailers have chosen to run targeted, short-term discounting in an attempt to ignite spending and protect further erosion to margins.

The hope is that these turbulent times calm down and the right strategies pay dividends.