October retail sales dropped as non-food posted the steepest declines on record and grocery was buoyed by inflation rather than volume.
Here’s a closer look at the industry’s sales performances last month, according to the BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor.
Food – up
Grocery topped the charts in retail sales last month and was the only sector to post a rise in both like-for-like and total sales.
Total food sales grew 3.7% in the three months to October, above the 12-month average of 3.2% which is itself the highest since July 2013.
However, this boon of sales has been delivered by price inflation, as the three-month average of volume sales growth during the period remained unchanged at 1.8%.
The unseasonably warm weather bolstered sales of fruit and vegetables in October, while Halloween also drove up confectionery sales.
Clothing – down
At the opening of John Lewis’ new flagship in Oxford, new boss Paula Nickolds described October as “a month to forget” – and this is certainly reflected in sales of clothing and footwear, which collectively posted their biggest sales decline since April 2011.
Clothing also contributed to the largest drop in sales across all sectors during the period as warmer weather inhibited winter wardrobe purchases, although retailers resisted the urge to bring forward their seasonal sales to shift stock.
Footwear – down
Women’s footwear was the main culprit for the sector’s sales slump, which was at the bottom of the growth rankings table in October.
Winter stock was left unsold and retailers resorted to sales incentives and vouchers in an effort to win back consumer spend.
Health and beauty – down
Although sales in the sector were down on a like-for-like basis, total sales during the period did increase, making health and beauty the third-best-performing category in October.
Advent calendars and Halloween hair colours were particularly strong sellers, although sales of gifting sets were subdued despite the rapid approach of Christmas.
On an online basis, health and beauty sales rose at the quickest rate across all sectors last month.
Furniture – down
Furniture sales declined on a like-for-like basis but edged into growth overall due to a boost in online purchases (it posted the second-biggest increase in online sales across all sectors last month) and lack of interest in clothing and footwear shifting spend.
Home accessories – down
The midweek timing of Halloween this year subdued related sales in the home accessories category, and sales of interior decorations during the period were described as “disappointing”.
Although like-for-likes declined, sales rose on a total basis as lighting products and promotional activity drove purchases.
House textiles – down
The home category posted its second worst decline of the year on October as demand for winter duvets was dampened by warmer weather. The category’s more expensive items such as made-to-measure curtains also posted sales slumps, indicating that shoppers are holding off on discretionary spend.
Toys and baby equipment – down
This category languished near the bottom of the sector growth table rankings for the second consecutive month, which was attributed to the lack of a “stand-out” toy being released to drive sales.
Nursery items sold well in-store, but online the toys and baby equipment was one of the worst-performing categories.
Household appliances – down
Sales of household appliances fell against weak comparatives in October, marking its sharpest decline since May. Items of small household appliances sold particularly poorly during the period.