Weather catches out fashion retailers

Retailers traditionally start selling summer clothing in January

The near-Arctic recent weather drove a slump in clothing sales on the high street last month, as customers wrapped up and shunned buying T-shirts, dresses and shorts.

Retailers fixed on stocking up on summer clothing earlier in the year in the hope the weather will follow suit have hit problems.

Despite a boost from the first part of Easter, the accountancy firm BDO will today reveal that underlying fashion sales tumbled by 3.4 per cent month.

The dire data on clothing will surprise few, and will be reinforced by an expected 4.5 per cent slump in underlying fashion and homewares sales at the retail bellwether Marks & Spencer on Thursday. Marks & Spencer has drafted in a raft experts to help turn the clothing business around, and the fashion expert Hilary Alexander has signed up as a consultant at its Per Una label.

Clothing retailers traditionally start selling summer clothing in January, and BDO warned that current collections are "entirely unsuited to bitter Arctic winds and sub-zero temperatures".

Don Williams, the national head of retail at BDO, said: "Retailers that failed to adjust stock levels and the supply chain were already on the back foot when the mercury dropped and will now have to work extra hard to catch better-prepared rivals."

Non-fashion retailers grew sales by an impressive 7.3 per cent last month, as chains selling outdoor goods benefited from the cold weather.

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