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UK fashion retail ‘had especially difficult November’ with declining sales

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It has become an exceedingly familiar experience to read about a UK retail sector that is seemingly constantly on the brink. Sure enough, November proved to be another one of those months, according to data just released by accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO.

Indeed, the latest “disappointing” month for the retail landscape in the UK arguably may as well have had a further adjective – “worrying” – tacked to it, given that better might have been hoped for from a month containing Black Friday. 

And the reading becomes even bleaker than that for the country’s fashion retailers, given that it was the sector suffering the biggest drop during the month. Total fashion sales declined by 3.6% from the solid base that was the 8.5% increase seen in 2022. 

The situation for fashion retail looks especially grim given that the homewares and lifestyle sectors both saw higher sales during the same timeframe, by 5.2% and 2%, respectively. 

Just how bad was the situation for the UK’s fashion retailers in November? 

The statistics we have cited so far are sourced from BDO’s usual monthly High Street Sales Tracker. The organisation said that even major discounts in November didn’t prove to be enough of a hit among shoppers, which left retailers suffering from “another disappointing month”. 

BDO said that total like-for-like (LFL) UK retail sales edged down by 0.3% during November, on a year-on-year basis. This muted figure came despite the month beginning with LFL sales recording a hefty 4.7% increase during the first week. 

But the second, third, and fourth weeks then all saw declining sales, which increasingly prevalent heavy discounting failed to reverse. 

The situation for brick-and-mortar retail wasn’t quite so bad; in-store LFL sales did actually go up in November. However, online sales were down by 0.2% compared to 12 months earlier, and the sales increase seen in “high-street” outlets wasn’t big enough to offset that. 

“Black Friday promotions and discounts alone are not enough to encourage consumer purchases”

The rather unsuccessful month for UK offline and online shopfronts alike, will perhaps serve as a salutary lesson to some, that even aggressive price-cutting isn’t always effective in rescuing sluggish sales. 

Indeed, BDO’s Head of Retail and Wholesale, Sophie Michael, made this point, asserting that “the overall figures, and in particular the fashion sector’s poor performance in both store and non-store categories, suggest that Black Friday promotions and discounts alone are not enough to encourage consumer purchases. 

“In fact, such events are merely proving to erode margins further; only collectively can retailers break this cycle.” 

Ms Michael went on to observe that 2024 looked set to present a continued challenge for retailers, due to factors such as an imminent increase in business rates as well as to the National Living Wage, which she said would put further pressure on overheads. 

Naturally, even when fashion, lifestyle, and luxury brands have many of the right fundamentals in place for growth, they still have to contend with prevailing market conditions. However, by working with a renowned and dedicated Shopify agency for high-end brands, possessing expertise across creative, strategic, and technological fronts, you can help maximise your chances of a fulfilling 2024 for your business. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact Skywire London for further information and advice on how we could work together in the months, and perhaps even years, ahead. 


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