The UK high street suffered more bad news today as data showed retailers recorded their worst sales for the month of May in over a decade.
Despite summery weather, two bank holidays and the Royal Wedding, UK retail sales fell 2.2 per cent last month on a like-for-like basis, the worst performance for May in 12 years, according to data from BDO.
The poor figures come just a day after House of Fraser announced it will shut 31 of its 59 stores across the UK and Ireland as part of a rescue deal, and budget retailer Poundworld revealed it is to appoint administrators.
Street party: Shoppers deserted shops on the day of the Royal Wedding, according to a report
House of Fraser closures puts 6,000 jobs at risk, while 5,300 Poundworld employees could lose their jobs.
The report says: ‘On paper, May provided the right conditions for successful in-store sales for retail. The sun shone for prolonged periods. The month incorporated the feel good factor generated by the prospect of two bank holidays and a Royal Wedding.
‘However, while increased footfall at times did provide opportunities, a beautiful union between consumers and in-store revenue increases failed to materialise.’
Homeware sales saw the biggest slump of all categories, falling by more than 15 per cent, while fashion was the star performer with sales rising by 0.4 per cent as the warmer weather prompted people to update their wardrobes.
But while it was the first positive month for fashion in-store sales since January – and the best May since 2014 – the like-for-like increase was off a poor base of -3.6 per cent for the same month in 2017, exposing the underlying weakness in the fashion sector.
The lifestyle sector also saw year-on-year sales drop by 3.8 per cent, while non-store sales rose by 14 per cent.
BDO noted that retailers did particularly badly during the week of the Royal Wedding.
In-store sales on discretionary items for the third week of May fell by 5.1 per cent compared to the same period last year. Even non-store sales suffered in that week, growing just 4.2 per cent compared to growth of more than 20 per cent in the second and fourth weeks.
Sophie Michael, head of retail at BDO, said the figures highlighted a volatility on the UK’s high streets.
‘Consumer spending patterns continue to be both volatile and unpredictable, making it increasingly difficult for retailers to identify trends and respond accordingly,’ he said.
‘Whether it’s falling discretionary income, unexpected weather or a growing preference to spend on experiences, the result is creating growing challenges on the high street which are clearly affecting retail performance.’