September retail results remain solid, but discount season under threat from supply chain disruption

08 October 2021

  • September retail sales record seventh month of consecutive growth 
  • Questions loom around Black Friday and discounting over the coming months 
  • Retailers must retain their focus on customer service despite labour shortages moving into the golden quarter

The UK’s Indian summer saw September’s retail sales maintain a solid seven months of sustained recovery with discretionary spend remaining strong, 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 +19.7% in September from a base of -1.3% for the equivalent month last year.

Total non-store like-for-like figures increased by +22.4%, carrying the weight for much of the growth and further reinforcing the consolidation of online’s proportion of retail revenues. This solidity contrasts with bricks-and-mortar sales where results were more inconsistent week-on-week though continuing to rebound positively from last year’s declines.

Sector Results

September’s results saw fashion, lifestyle, and homeware all with positive total like-for-like sales. Fashion saw the biggest growth with total like-for-like sales increasing by +32.0% for the month, though from a base of -6.1% for the same time last year. Total like-for-like sales for fashion recorded consistent growth in each week of September, the seventh consecutive month of positive total like-for-like sales with strong results across store channels in addition to online. 

Lifestyle total life-for-like sales also increased by +14.2% in September, but from a base of -1.8% for the equivalent month last year, the seventh month of positive like-for-like sales for total lifestyle.

Homeware total like-for-like sales rose by +7.9% in September but from an impressive base of +19.1% for the same month last year. The sector recorded steady growth throughout the month except for the last week in September. Whilst these figures show that growth in this sector is slowing, September marks homewares seventeenth consecutive month of positive like-for-like sales.
 
Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: 

“Despite the current economic uncertainty, retailers will be relieved that discretionary spending remained strong in September ahead of the all-important Golden Quarter.

“However, the current challenges facing the sector mean this Christmas season could look very different. While shoppers have become accustomed to generous Black Friday discounting in recent years, strong consumer demand combined with supply chain delays and higher costs could mean far fewer deals on offer.   

“This may come as a relief to some retailers who will be released from having to take part in a race to the bottom on price at the sacrifice of profit margin.

“However, there are also considerable downside risks. While there is widespread awareness of labour shortages and supply chain delays, consumers are unlikely to be in forgiving mood if they receive poor customer service or their Christmas presents don’t arrive on time. Retailers who miss the mark in the last quarter could face longer term brand reputation issues and therefore delivering on customer promises must be a top priority.”

-ENDS

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.  

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