Like-for-likes advanced 1.3% in August, largely as a result of weak comparables and grocery inflation, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
We break down the industry’s sales performances last month sector by sector.
Food – Up
Food growth slowed a little in the three months to August, growing at 3.2%, down from 3.4% in the quarter to July and 4% in the May and June quarters.
This slowdown is still higher than the 12-month average of 2.7%, however, which is the highest yearly average since the 12 months to November 2013.
Crucially, when inflation was stripped out, volume growth was 1.9%, a slight slowdown from July’s.
Sales were driven by both autumnal and picnic and barbecue food, thanks to the unseasonal weather, with summery options selling well over the bank holiday heatwave and consumers opting for ready meals in colder weather.
Clothing – Up
Clothing sales, which suffered in July due to an unseasonably warm June, picked up again in autumn with the arrival of gloomy weather.
Alongside the demand for autumn ranges, extra promotional activity and back-to-school clothing boosted sales, as did children’s dressing-up costumes.
In womenswear, full-price items and heavy outerwear sold well, contributing to clothing being the second-highest generator of growth in August.
Troublingly, some retailers said that they experienced stock delays due to cyber-attacks on shipping container firms.
On a more positive note, although online outperformed stores, in-store growth was the second-highest this year.
Footwear – Up
Once again, back-to-school product boosted sales with trainers also generating purchases. The category achieved its highest online penetration since September 2015 at 28.3%.
Despite the uplift online, store sales remained in decline, although overall trading saw good momentum, promising to carry on into September.
Health and beauty – Up
Health and beauty was back in growth last month due to successful promotional deals in cosmetics and perfumes. New product lines also contributed to sales growth, although health outperformed beauty with cough and allergy medicine selling well.
Both stores and online sales grew, with value-focused beauty deals online resonating with consumers.
Furniture – Up
Furniture sales grew both online and in-store during August, although not all retailers experienced the market’s growth.
Consumers seemed more concerned with value for money than previously. The wet weather made August a more suitable month for home improvement than it normally is and helped it become the third-biggest contributor to growth during the month.
The BRC warned that September would be a more reliable indicator of discretionary consumer spending power.
Home accessories – Up
Home accessories performed well in August, with shoppers looking for inexpensive ways to improve their homes. The performance was, however, boosted by an easy comparative as consumers had spent more time outside at the same time last year due to a heatwave.
Many retailers saw cooking and dining items sell well, although textiles was the best-seller in the category.
House textiles – Up
Textiles sold very well, with the category achieving its best growth since July 2015, although it also benefited from weak comparables.
Both core and decorative products drove growth, with many shoppers adding non-essential items to their baskets along with items such as quilts and pillows.
Toys and baby equipment – Up
August started better than it ended for toys with many parents entertaining their children indoors during the cold start to the month.
Although that growth was not maintained during the whole month, it led to good growth overall, especially with weak comparables.
Household appliances – Up
While household appliance like-for-likes rose in August, it was the only category to suffer falling total sales during the month.
After July’s decline, this could be cause for concern, although it seemed mainly to affect smaller goods, with large products such as white goods performing better.
Other non-food – Up
Benefiting from weak comparables, other non-food sales rose after a poor July. Outdoor furniture and garden equipment sold poorly as consumers headed indoors because of the early autumnal weather.
Gaming sales were standout due to the new Xbox One X becoming available for pre-order at the end of the month. That trend should continue into September, as should the sales of new games accompanying the console.