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August high street sales one of ‘worst on record’ as shoppers steer clear

August high street sales have been described as “one of the worst on record” by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO.

According to the firm’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) for August, UK high street sales declined 2.7% year-on-year – making it the worst August decline for three years.

BDO confirmed it is the seventh month in a row for negative in-store sales, and the eleventh month in succession where bricks-and-mortar growth has failed to exceed 1%.

Shoppers appeared to avoid the high street, total in-store like-for-like (LFL) sales fell every week of August starting with a 3.9% fall in the first week. Sales continued to fall in by in week two (down 2.9%) and three (down 2.8%), before picking up slightly with the onset of the bank holiday weekend (down 1.1% for the last week).

The fashion sector saw its worst August since 2015, with sales down in-store in every week of August and down by more than 3% in three weeks of the month.

Homewares stores saw sales growth drop 6.1% year-on-year in August from a base of +1.9% for August 2017 – the worst August for homeware since 2012.

Lifestyle was the only sector to avoid a fall in year-on-year growth, flatlining at 0%.

Online, non-store like-for-like sales in August were up by 13.7% from a base of +18.3% for August last year. The growth was the lowest seen for August since 2015 and constitutes the third lowest result in the year-to-date.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “The high street hasn’t seen any notable growth since October last year. With inflation continuing to bite on the weekly shop and the heatwave driving discretionary spending to bars and entertaining, there is even less disposable income heading to the high street.

“There are signs that retailer margins are being protected through tighter management of stock levels and shortening discount periods. However, next month is going to be an important bellwether for retailers leading into the crucial last quarter of the calendar year.”

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