By Daniel Hunter

Despite the wettest April since records began, overall, retailers have weathered the storm. The latest figures from the BDO High Street Sales Tracker show mid-tier retailers’ like-for-like sales down by just 0.8% year-on-year.

Cold, wet weather inevitably hit fashion retailers hard (down 4.6% year-on-year) as the few shoppers to brave the rain eschewed stocks of lighter spring and summer lines in favour of garments left-over from winter.

But this was offset by higher than average growth in non-fashion (up 5.9%) with demand up in most categories — particularly for luxury stores.

Homewares sales also enjoyed an exceptional month. A combination of a weak corresponding period last year and strong sales of wet weather items (such as water butts purchased to beat recently introduced hosepipe bans) saw the like-for-like sales in the sector leap 14%.

Unsurprisingly, the other big winner from the rain was online sales. Shopping from home boosted year-on-year sales by 29%, echoing recent trends reported by major retailers such as Next and Debenhams.

Don Williams, National Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said the figures were “nowhere near as bad as some had suggested”.

“The lead times for much of the high street, especially fashion, means many can’t react to unseasonal weather in the way that something like the grocery sector can. This combined with the continued pressure on disposable income meant that we weren’t expecting sales to grow,” said Williams. “But the fact the numbers were down less than 1% shows people are still spending money despite feeling the financial pinch.”

Williams also warned retailers not to let poor weather lead them to complacency.

“Struggling retailers will find it all too easy to hide behind the rain, but the sun coming out won’t reverse their fortunes if they aren’t working hard for every sale and making sure their online offer is as good as it can be.”

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