Retailers enjoy strong growth in October but outlook for Christmas remains very uncertain

05 November 2021

  • October retail sales record eighth month of consecutive growth
  • Fashion sector drives sales increases as homeware flattens after consistent growth
  • Drop in consumer confidence may herald a bleak winter for UK retailers

Halloween and the half term holiday powered retailers to an eighth consecutive month of sales growth, new figures by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP reveal.

According to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), total like-for-like (LFL) sales, combined in-store and online, increased by +19.9% in October from a base of +1.6% for the equivalent month last year.

Total non-store like-for-like figures increased by +15.7% from a base of +86.0% in October 2020, showing that online continues to grow its proportion of the retail market. Bricks-and-mortar sales also saw growth, with that channel’s weekly like-for-like sales consistently offsetting last year’s base results. In the final week, when Halloween coincided with the half-term holiday, total LFL sales peaked, reaching +27.52% from a base of +6.03% in the equivalent week last year.

Sector Results

October’s results saw fashion, lifestyle, and homeware all record positive total like-for-like sales.

Fashion saw the biggest growth with total like-for-like sales increasing by +36.8% for the month, from a base of -4.8% for the same time last year. Each week in October saw consistent growth in total like-for-like sales for fashion, with a surge in activity in the final week of the month as sales growth reached +45.78%.

Total like-for-like sales in the lifestyle sector also increased by +10.0% in October, from a base of +6.1% for the equivalent month last year. This is the eighth month of positive total like-for-like sales for the lifestyle sector; however, it represents a lower rate of growth than last month.

Homeware total like-for-like sales rose by just +0.7% in October but from an impressive base of +21.6% for the same month last year. The flattening of growth in the homeware sector is primarily a result of the significant LFL growth recorded over the past 18 months as people used the time spent at home in lockdown to redecorate and freshen their living space for both work and non-work time. 

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said:

“During October, consumers may have heeded warnings to get their Christmas shopping in early amid fears of supply shortages and price hikes due to inflationary pressures.  

“Retailers ― and fashion brands in particular ― will be pleased with a strong first month in the all-important Golden Quarter, but the big question is whether the tills can keep ringing until Christmas.

“For retailers trying to catch their breath after successive lockdowns, the problems just seem to keep on mounting. In addition to serious staffing and supply chain challenges, consumer confidence fell sharply from September to October raising fears that the rising cost of living could mean a spending slowdown in the lead-up to Christmas.

“With the market so difficult to read, retailers must focus on staying nimble, responding quickly to fluctuating demand and making sure they have the workforce and logistics capability to deliver on their customer promise. Providing an attractive product range despite the supply chain challenges will also be key.”

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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

BDO LLP operates in 18 offices across the UK, employing 6,000 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP is the UK member firm of the BDO international network.

BDO’s global network

The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 167 countries, with 91,000 people working out of 1,658 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $10.3bn. 

Contacts

Fergus Lynch
Harry Shanahan-Jones

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