By Daniel Hunter

Retailers have been left cursing the late cold snap for scuppering sales of Spring fashion lines.

Figures released from BDO’s monthly High Street Sales Tracker show overall like-for-like sales in March dipped 0.9% year-on-year.

Mothers’ Day gifts boosted like-for-like sales in non-fashion which grew 7.3%, helped by a surge of 15.5% in the second week of the month. Homewares also benefited from gifting and was up 2.2%, helped by a notable increase in kitchenware. However, the second coldest March on record hit fashion sales hard. With Spring lines entirely unsuited to bitter Artic winds and sub-zero temperatures, sales slumped 3.4% year-on-year.

Forecasters are now warning the cold snap will continue until at least the middle of April so the effects of the poor weather can therefore be expected to knock on well into this month. Retailers fear shoppers will now hold out for summer lines, forcing them to clear Spring stock by discounting, hitting even those stores that have continued to maintain tight stock levels and introduce greater flexibility into the supply chain.

Don Williams, National Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said he recognised that continued low levels of consumer confidence left retailers exposed to unseasonal weather, but urged them to plan carefully around annual calendar shifts.

“People remain cash-strapped so their natural instinct is not to spend unless given a good reason,” he explained. “A product consumers like, with a strong focus on value, price and service is no longer enough, they also need an occasion like Mothers’ Day, Easter or the school holidays to give them that final nudge.

“Retailers that failed to adjust stock levels and the supply chain accordingly were already on the back foot when the mercury dropped and will now have to work extra hard to catch better prepared rivals.”

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