Fashion retail struggled in November says BDO sales tracker

When a UK retail report starts with the words “the worst November in three years despite the heavy discounting,” you just know that things aren’t right.


Fashion stores struggled to attract shoppers last month

And so it was with BDO’s latest High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) for November with its figures suggesting that “shoppers have become increasingly jaded by Black Friday.”

According to the HSST, in-store sales declined by 2.6% year-on-year last month and following a poor October (down 2% year-on-year), it marks the tenth consecutive month of negative in-store growth. 

It also strongly hints at an autumn trading period that’s going to make grim reading when many retailers issue their trading updates and final-quarter earnings reports in the weeks and months ahead.

Despite retailers trying to boost sales with extended and targeted discounting, Black Friday week “provided little respite” with in-store sales remaining almost flat at +0.4%.

But online retail had a “bumper month”. Non-store sales increased 18.2% in November from a “solid base” of +17.5% in the same month last year. The leap marks the best monthly like-for-like result for non-store sales this year, the HSST said, with the online focus of Black Friday likely to have been a major factor here.

Overall, the specific Black Friday performance was impressive digitally and was the strongest result for a Black Friday week since 2014 (up 30.8% compared to last year).

In stores, a number of categories suffered in particular and BDO said fashion was among them, despite other reports that have suggested Back Friday gave fashion a boost. Fashion sales dropped in-store by 1.7% year-on-year in November, marking four consecutive months of decline and eight out of 11 months this year with no growth.

Lifestyle goods fell a worse 4.8% and were down 9.1% in week two of the month. And while homewares got a bump during Black Friday week (growth of 4.3% in the fourth week of November from a strong base of +6.6% in the same week last year), in-store like-for-like sales for the month overall dipped by 0.4%.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO, said changing consumer shopping habits and the contrast between physical and online sales will define this festive season for stores. “Retailers will be very disappointed with the flat in-store sales in November,” she said. “They will be deeply concerned to enter the crucial Christmas trading period off the back of another poor month.

She added that this year’s Black Friday has shown two key trends: “Firstly that consumers are holding off spending until the discounting starts and secondly, when they do purchase, it’s through online channels and not on the high street.”

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