Fashion holds steady as younger shoppers spend

Fashion retailers will be able to take some comfort from the latest retail sales figures.

According to Office of National Statistics (ONS) data for February, sales dipped by 0.1 per cent overall - the second consecutive monthly fall - but the month was kindest to clothing and footwear retailers.

The sub-sector's sales grew by 4.3 per cent in value, year-on-year. Household goods fared the worst, and grew by only 1.4 per cent.

Some commentators were pleasantly surprised by the figures, given the economic uncertainties and one-off features, such as the introduction of the Congestion Charge in London.

The performance of clothing and shoes reflects young, fashion-conscious consumers' resilience to the effects of economic instability, and the view that clothing is an essential, rather than luxury, purchase.

'Pricing for clothes has come down. It's roughly halved in the past 10 years,' said Seymour Pierce analyst Rhys Williams.

'The young fashion outlets have definitely seen the bulk of the benefits here. French Connection and Ted Baker both did well in their last financial reports - they're both young brands with highly differentiated products.'

Williams predicted a gradual slowdown for the retail sector as a whole, rather than a sharp fall. Even the household goods market could experience an uplift as consumers, fearful of terrorist attacks, spend on big-ticket items at home rather than go on foreign holidays.