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Apr 7, 2017
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BDO tracker - higher March store footfall fails to convert into sales rise

Published
Apr 7, 2017

The weather may have been brighter in March but that didn’t mean Britons went out to buy spring fashion. That said, they did stay in to buy clothes with online sales growth easily outstripping the performance in physical stores.


UK shoppers were out in force in March but not all stores were as successful as Selfridges in converting footfall into sales



Even the added boost of Mother’s Day failed to turn it into a positive month for fashion stores, according to the latest monthly tracker from accountancy firm BDO.

It said comparable sales were flat compared to February with the fashion sector dipping slightly. But the 0.8% drop was at least better than the 2.5% fall of a year ago and better than the 3.4% fall that had been seen in February. Yet it was still disappointing given the expectation that Mother’s Day and more spring-like weather would boost interest in new-season collections.

Interiors products fared better with comparable sales for homewares up 1.8%, better than the year-ago rise of 1.1%. But it was still the second worst result for homewares in the past nine months.

Meanwhile non-store comparable sales, which means online, surged 28.1%, a sharp increase on the already-impressive 17.1% rise seen in March last year. And it was even better given that the Easter calendar shift worked against March sales this year with the easter boost set to benefit April.

The weak sales figures can even though store footfall was relatively buoyant, according to specialist tracking firm Springboard. It seems that stores failed to convert traffic into sales in their physical stores during March. Footfall rose in three out of four weeks last month and in the final week was up a strong 5.2%.
However, the burst of spending online could mean that consumers were increasingly ‘showrooming’ - touching, feeling and trying on in-store first before placing their orders online.

“March 2017 is the fourth month in a row to see no growth on the high street despite a notable rise in footfall,” said Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO. “The new season should have triggered high street spending, and retailers will be questioning why they have been unable to convert shoppers into buyers.”

She also said that rising inflation will make shoppers more choosy about how they spend, even though recent data has shown fashion prices are still falling as stores struggle to attract people through their doors.

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