• Industry sales by value down 0.1% last month year on year
  • Footwear and clothing sales down 6.4%
  • Online sales up 8.9% year on year

Fashion retail sales by value fell 6.4%, while March’s overall retail sales fell by 0.1% year on year, latest figures from the ONS show.

March’s overall industry sales by value fell by 1.3% compared with February 2016.

Deloitte head of retail Ian Geddes said that the early Easter weekend “did not live up to analysts’ expectations” for boosting March’s sales.

“Retail sales values fell in food, clothing and footwear segments, which is particularly unexpected considering the time of year,” he said.

However, the value of online sales increased 8.9% year on year, ONS figures published today reveal.

“There are still some encouraging signs as online sales again impressed, with retailers appealing to tech-savvy customers by taking advantage of internet and mobile sales opportunities,” said Barclays head of retail Ian Gilmartin.

Online and digital sales are driven by of the increase in smartphone and tablet ownership, Geddes said.

“76% of UK consumers have access to a smartphone, and 60% to a tablet. Similarly, online and mobile payment methods are improving and the gap between browsing and purchasing through a mobile device has narrowed, thanks to the rise of touch-based payment services.

“The boost in online sales is an indication that retailers’ digital investment is starting to pay off,” Geddes added.

A brighter outlook

Looking ahead, Gilmartin said that “now the sun has started to shine occasionally” retailers will be hoping to lure shoppers back to the high street with their summer lines.

“Increased footfall coupled with further online growth will help deliver a return to form this month.”

However, Geddes warns: “The retail industry will have to remain adaptable to changing consumer confidence and spending patterns in the short term, particularly given economic and political uncertainty in the coming months.”