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Bank holiday heatwave scorches high street sales

05 September 2019

Wary consumers avoid in-store spending in August.

Soaring temperatures and Brexit uncertainty meant Britain’s high street sales continued to melt in August, figures released today by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP reveal.

According to the High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), like-for-like in-store sales dropped by -0.1% last month from an already gloomy base of -2.7% for August last year. 

The final week of the month resulted in a calamitous fall for in-store sales as record-setting temperatures singed sales into the bank holiday weekend. The result marks six months of negative like-for-like in-store sales this calendar year, as consumers tighten their belts in the face of mounting uncertainty. 

In-store lifestyle sales fell -1.8% in August from a flat base of 0.0% last year, culminating in 19 months of no growth for the category as retailers head into the crucial Christmas trading period on fragile footing. 

Despite back to school promotions kicking in, fashion in-store sales managed only a +0.9% boost in like-for-like sales in August from a weak base of -3.6% for the same month last year. 

Following an eight-month run of positive in-store sales, homewares failed to continue its pattern of encouraging results. In-store like-for-like sales fell by -0.8% from a very poor base of -6.1% for August 2018. 

The hottest summer on record didn’t halt online shoppers, however, with non-store sales increasing by +18.6% in August from a base of +13.7% for the equivalent month last year. The category continued to be a source of growth for the sector as retailers failed to convert rising footfall into in-store sales.  

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “2019 continues to deliver bad news for the British high street, with crumbling consumer confidence and growing uncertainty discouraging discretionary spend. 

“Despite some improvement in footfall in the final week of August, retailers were unable to convert this into higher sales. With another worrying month of no growth and a Government distracted by Brexit negotiations and now a potential General Election, retailers are heading into the crucial Christmas period on very unsteady footing.”

Sophie added: “As the retail landscape changes, the pressure on traditional retailers to adapt is bigger than ever. However, recent research suggests retailers are failing to invest in their digital strategy and omnichannel offering despite the huge shift online.

“The current political and economic uncertainty is adding to the struggles of cash-strapped retailers and their increasing reluctance to make investment decisions. The sector is in desperate need for the government to take action, provide some clarity and give retailers the confidence to make the necessary investment to deliver long-term growth.”

Note to editors

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world.

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high growth businesses that fuel the economy. 

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed. 


BDO LLP operates in 17 offices across the UK, employing 5,000 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP has underlying revenues of £590m and is the UK member firm of the BDO International network.

BDO’s global network

The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 162 countries, with 80,000 people working out of 1,600 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $9bn. 


Oliver Druttman, Sophie Isles or Erin Dodds
Tel: +44(0)20 7758 3900
Email: [email protected]