High street bounces back amid new year spending spree

The high street bounced back to its strongest month since January 2014 last month, on the back of the easing political backdrop and heavy discounting.

The closely watched BDO High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) reported a 5.7% jump in like-for-like in-store sales for the month.

The survey also revealed that each of the three major retail categories – lifestyle, fashion and homeware – all reported growth for the first time in two years, as 2020 started on a positive footing.

However, experts at the accountancy firm warned that any recovery is still at an early and unpredictable stage and it remains to be seen if any improvement in confidence will meaningfully boost the high street.

“Despite January being the best month in six years, this may be a false dawn in terms of a high street recovery,” said Sophie Michael, national head of retail and wholesale at BDO.

“Bargain-hungry shoppers are continuing to acclimatise to increasingly lengthy sales periods, which stores are responding to with discounting still visible on the high street.

“February will show whether consumer confidence has got a toehold in some kind of recovery for retail.”

The January figure comes after 2019 was reported as one of the worst years on record, with sales sliding 0.6%, as it became the fifth consecutive year of falling high street sales.

January’s growth was significantly driven by homeware sales, which grew 8.9% for the month, in the category’s best performance for nine years.

Meanwhile, fashion sales grew by 5.8% for the month, ending two consecutive months of decline.

Lifestyle sales also posted significant growth, increasing by 5.1% in January.


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