January sales provides relief for retailers

retail sales

Bargain hunters came out in force in January after a disastrous December, according to the latest BDO high street tracker study, pushing up sales by 1.4 per cent on a year-on-year basis, reports The Times.

Car showrooms had their busiest January since 2005 as motorists moved to lock into cheap financing packages, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

BDO said that, unlike over Christmas, fashion sales were particularly strong, recording a year-on-year rise of 1.9 per cent in January. Sales in the lifestyle sector were also up slightly, by 0.3 per cent, while homewares sales grew by 0.8 per cent. Online retailing continued its strong run with non-store sales rising by 20.2 per cent in January, compared to the same period last year.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said shopkeepers would be relieved after enduring one of the worst Christmas trading periods on the high street since 2008.

She said the attraction of clearance events meant that fashion sales had jumped by more than 5 per cent year on year in the first two weeks of January.

Like-for-like fashion sales moved back into negative territory towards the end of the month, as discounts dried up and freezing conditions set in, but overall were up 1.9 per cent.

Ms Michael said: “The lull between Black Friday and the January sales was particularly noticeable at the end of 2015 and the beginning of the year.

“Retailers might be getting better at attracting the new generation of savvier shoppers in discounting periods, but margins will suffer unless they sell full-price stock too.

“The strong performers demonstrate that consumers are willing to pay full price if they see a desirable product. The stores that thrive in 2016 will be the ones who combine a strong customer service proposition with an attractive brand and a compelling product mix.”

After a record 2.63 million in 2015, new car registrations hit an 11-year high for January, typically a quiet month, ahead of the March registration plate change.

The SMMT said new car sales rose by 2.9 per cent to nearly 170,000. For the first time, more than one in 30 cars sold was a hybrid or electrically powered vehicle.