By Daniel Hunter

High street fashion stores are holding out for full price sales and refusing to panic discount in the face of the coldest Spring in 50 years.

Despite the incessant wind and rain, figures released today in BDO’s monthly High Street Sales Tracker show overall like-for-like high street fashion sales dipped by just 1.4% in May — with discounting of Spring lines coming later — and lighter — this year.

While fashion sales struggled, non-fashion was up strongly at 8.5% year-on-year and homewares grew 4.6%, leading to an overall like-for-like high street sales rise of 0.8%.

Don Williams, National Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said despite the fall in sales, fashion stores had learnt lessons from previous years.

“We’re seeing less over commitment to stock levels, which allows retailers to hold out a bit longer for better weather and full price sales,” he explained.

“If shoppers really do call stores’ bluff and refuse to buy at full price, retailers are working hard to build enough flexibility in their strategy to switch tactics and discount. Clearly their margins will take a hit, but many retailers have been working to protect margins through strong focus on costs and increasing efficiency in the supply chain.

“By factoring in lower sales forecasts and not over-committing to initial stock purchases, retailers are striving to avoid the cash flow difficulties that led to ‘blood on the high street’ in previous years.”

BDO also cited department stores playing a major role in customers’ buying patterns, with a distinct trend towards shoppers preferring to find a range of quality goods in one place.

Online sales showed a steady performance, up 26.5% year-on-year, reflecting the overall picture on the high street and the continuing rise of mobile shopping channels.

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