Retail sales were better than expected last month, boosted by a strong pick up in women’s fashion as the economic recovery finally filtered through to shoppers’ spending habits.
Until now consumers have been reluctant to allow the “feel good” factor to affect their shopping behaviour, preferring to save cash amid widespread worries of a triple dip recession.
But figures out today from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed stronger than expected March sales, given the fact that Easter fell so late this year.
Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Fashion has performed particularly well.
“Retailers have worked hard to create popular new collections, and have been rewarded with strong demand for women’s clothing and footwear in particular.
“This improves on the slow start to the season last year when shoppers were more reluctant to spruce up their wardrobes.”
The pick up follows a recovery in fashion sales at Marks & Spencer last week. The retail bellwether said like-for-like clothing sales rose 0.6 per cent in the 13 weeks to March 29, driven by “clear signs of improvement” in women’s fashion following last autumn’s relaunch of its M&S Collection.
The BRC said fashion categories were the outstanding winners in March as the mild weather was in phase with the launch of the spring/ summer ranges.
This was in sharp contrast with March 2013 when cold temperatures led to the worst performance of the year.
Women’s fashion led the way and a successful Mother’s Day build-up was singled-out as a key performance driver.
There was strong demand for new ranges which sold at full price, helping retailers to restore margins.
The BRC said dresses, blouses, slippers and men’s shorts were particularly strong although men’s sport items did not sell so well.
Women’s accessories, handbags, sunglasses performed well, as did fancy dress and children’s clothing, which outperformed expectations.
The best performing category in March was women’s footwear followed by children’s.