Shoppers back on high street after months of no-shows

The high street has shown its first sign of life since Brexit, with sales last month rising to end a nine-month run of decline in one of the country’s most closely followed retail industry barometers.

BDO, the accountancy network, said that its high-street sales tracker recorded a 0.7 per cent uptick in October, its first positive performance since February, driven largely by an 11.6 per cent increase in homewares sales and a 2.3 per cent rise in lifestyle goods.

“Shoppers have reminded everyone of their resilience and this result provides a promising start to a crucial trading quarter. Prices will inevitably rise next year in the context of the falling pound but right now people are remarkably upbeat about their finances,” said Sophie Michael, national head of retail and wholesale at BDO.

One dark spot in the results was fashion retail, with like-for-like sales dropping in three weeks out of five in October, with the accountancy firm’s tracker recording a weekly high for the month of 2 per cent against a low of 5.2 per cent, although a cold snap earlier in the month provided clothing chains with a much-needed boost.

Overall, fashion sales last month were down 0.9 per cent, although even this result was the best since January.

“Retailers have a perfect window of opportunity to push full-price lines for the next few weeks and claw back their margins prior to Black Friday,” Ms Michael said.

Non-stores sales also rose, gaining 19.5 per cent year-on-year, after falling in September to 12.6 per cent, indicating a slowdown in online trading.

As high-street sales fell this year, retailers have looked to improve trading, meaning October’s resurgence will have calmed some nerves.

Over the month, BDO said that online sales were positive in three weeks out of four and in one week rose by more than 20 per cent on the year.