June 4, 2012 12:30 am

Heatwave brings Britons back to shops

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A woman looking at a bag in a retail store©Bloomberg

Hotting up: a jump in temperature has sparked a rush to the stores

High street sales bounced back in May after April’s washout, as the brief heatwave prompted Britons to stock up on summer clothes and garden furniture.

According to figures from BDO, the professional services group, sales from stores open at least a year, from medium-sized chains, rose 1.3 per cent in May, compared with the year earlier period.

BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker said the month began very slowly, after the wet April, but the sudden improvement in the weather saw spending trends across the high street dramatically change, as shoppers rushed to update their wardrobes.

Don Williams, head of retail at BDO, said some of the demand for summer clothing reflected purchases that had been put off from April.

“You would expect that April would be the time for you to refresh your summer wardrobe. Of course, that didn’t happen, so you are then into a bit of pent up demand. Plus there was a bit of promotional activity on top of that, so customers got the benefit,” he said.

In contrast, the hotter weather prompted spending across non-fashion and home related categories to slump. Nevertheless, relatively heavy spending during the first part of the month meant sales still increased in these areas.

Sales of homewares rose 4.2 per cent in the four weeks to May 27, boosted by purchases of garden furniture, as temperatures rose, as well as Britons reaching the point where they need to replace items.

“Homewares has been very depressed ... in the last couple of years. Potentially there is a bit of a replacement cycle,” Mr Williams added.

Last week, Kingfisher and Halfords painted a bleak picture of trading on the high street as the rain in April hit spending on items from barbecues to bicycles.

After the dismal April, retailers have been pinning their hopes on the Jubilee weekend – the first of the events this summer – to kick-start spending.

They have been hoping that consumers snap up goods from royal memorabilia to garden gnomes, and even new clothes for a Jubilee street party.

Mr Williams said he expected the Jubilee to lift consumers’ mood, while an extra bank holiday would be good for trade, as Britons saw shopping as a leisure activity.

“Psychologically it will help. I expect some people to go shopping as well on Tuesday,” he said.

“We are going to get a temporary relief from this maelstrom of saying everything is really uncertain,” he added.

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