As is often the case with our unpredictable British summer weather, June proved to be a bit of a washout on the high street.
And just as the damp conditions delayed play during the first week of Wimbledon, the rain also delayed sales on the high street last month – particularly in fashion.
According to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, like-for-likes across the industry fell 0.5% last month, compared with a rise of 1.8% in June 2015.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson blamed the disappointing performance on a fall in fashion sales, although she pointed out clothing was up against tough comparables after record growth the year before.
But the weather has also been a drag. As KPMG’s head of retail David McCorquodale stated: “Summer wardrobes remained bare as sales of women’s fashion and footwear plummeted following one of the wettest and dullest starts to a UK summer since records began.”
Unfortunately for fashion retailers, a bit of July sunshine will not guarantee they will make up the shortfall, as they now have the fallout from Brexit to worry about. Of course, apparel specialists aren’t the only businesses to have this headache, but according to Nielsen research, they may be more affected than other sectors.
In the face of a declining economy, consumers are looking at ways to save money, and according to the study, spending less on new clothes is among the top ways in which they intend to do this.
And it’s not just the drop off in consumer demand fashion retailers need to worry about. There is also the business impact of the sterling slump.
John Lewis boss Andy Street said last week: “The big issue that we are facing into is the decline in the exchange rate.”
But as we have said in the pages of Retail Week before, retailers are used to weathering such storms. In the past few years they have navigated one of the deepest recessions in living memory, which sparked a slump in demand and unhelpful policies including a rise in VAT.
And more recently retailers have had to contend the introduction of the living wage and a government that shows no desire to tackle the business rates issue.
Whether it is a currency crash, a consumer confidence collapse or even the weather, the best retailers tackle these setbacks with aplomb.
Wimbledon does not grind to a halt due to a bit of rain, and likewise retail will not pull up the shutters in the face of a few hurdles, no matter how insurmountable they may seem at the outset.
- Nicola Harrison is content editor at Retail Week