This site uses cookies to provide you with a more responsive and personalised service. By using this site you agree to our use of cookies. Please read our privacy statement for more information on the cookies we use and how to delete or block them.

High street frozen out as in-store sales remain flat

09 August 2019

But July heatwave provides ray of sunshine for online fashion sales

Soaring temperatures failed to boost sales on the high street in July but resulted in the strongest online sales growth in 18 months as consumers jumped online for a fast-fashion summer wardrobe fix.

According to the High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), published today by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO, like-for-like in-store sales remained flat at +0.1% in July, putting increased pressure on high street retailers heading deeper into Q3.

Coming from a negative base of -1.1% for July last year, the results did not provide the boost retailers had needed after a tough first half of the year and with the all-important final quarter of the year looming on the horizon.

In-store lifestyle sales saw the worst July on record with like-for-like sales decreasing -3.0% from a poor base of -2.6% last year, indicating continued challenges for the category which has seen no growth for 18 months.

The in-store fashion sector toasted its first signs of growth in three months with like-for-like sales up +1.2% in July from a base of +1.3% for the same month last year.

Following a disastrous 2018, the homewares category made a valiant recovery with an increase of +5.8% but didn’t come close to offsetting last year’s negative base of -11.8%.

The silver lining to the bleak results on the high street was the strong performance of non-store, which saw like for like sales up +20.5% from a base of +14.7% last year - the strongest figures the category has seen since December 2017.

Perhaps too hot for high street shopping, the week-long July heatwave saw consumers jump online to freshen their summer wardrobes, ensuring a particularly strong performance for the non-store fashion category.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “2019 is proving to be a year to forget for the great British high street. Discounting has been relentless this summer; July’s flat sales figures will not only be disappointing for retailers but will also add further pressure to margins that are already being squeezed to the extreme.

“It is crucial the new Prime Minister delivers on his pledge to implement measures that will help save the high street and provide some much-needed reassurance to retailers and the hundreds of thousands of people they employ.”

Commenting on the future of retail, Sophie adds: “Traditional brands are in a difficult situation but the high street is still a very important part of the future of UK retail. Boohoo’s acquisition of Karen Millen and Coast this week is indicative of that.

“While there will always be ‘pureplay’ online retailers, we shouldn’t be surprised to see more moves like this as online retailers turn to physical portfolios to create meaningful customer engagement.”


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]