Homeware posts ninth consecutive month of positive sales

Total like-for-like (LFL) sales fell by -10% in January, but from a base of +7% for the equivalent month last year.

According to the latest BDO High Street Sales Tracker, total in-store LFLs plunged by -80.9% this month from a base of +5.7% for January last year.

Total non-store LFLs rocketed upwards by +132.8% in January from a base of +18.8% last year. Non-store sales posted their best LFL on record in January as lockdown restrictions shuttered bricksand-mortar outlets across the country once again.

The boost in online activity helped keep total LFLs away from the depths of the first national lockdown, though January’s result still marked the worst monthly total LFL since June (-14.4%) last year. January is the second negative monthly total LFL in a row following a lacklustre December.

Homeware total LFLs increased by +6.7% in January from a base of +5.4% for the equivalent month last year.

Total LFLs from homeware have continued to stand apart from other segments, logging its ninth straight month of positive LFL sales having only seen a decline in one week of January (-1.32% in week one).

In-store LFLs for homeware, on the other hand, dropped by -67.0% this month from a base of +8.9% last year. The result marks five straight months without growth for in-store homeware LFLs.

Overall footfall was severely impacted by the lockdown measures across the UK. Both the high street and shopping centres saw activity reduced by almost three-quarters through several weeks of January.

Shopping centres recorded the sharpest decline in footfall during the third week of the month, a drop of -74.9%, while the high street was not far behind logging a fall of -73.8% in the same week.

Retail parks continued to see slightly better footfall than other venues, however activity dropped by more than a third in every week of January and declined by -44.9% in week three, the first full week of the national lockdown.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “You would normally see positive growth at the start of the year thanks to the post-Christmas sales, but this year retailers experienced a bleak January after a very lacklustre Christmas.

“Recent administrations point to a squeeze on the middle market. With unemployment set to rise further, the hit to discretionary spend will likely push shoppers towards value retailers and ever-growing online retail platforms, putting further pressure on the midmarket.

“The future for retailers is currently clouded by uncertainty with significant challenges ahead. Retailers have the additional problem of predicting how and when consumers will return, and at what level of spending.  Added to this, consumers are already displaying potentially lasting new shopping habits and varying product preferences, across all age groups.  These challenges together with the need to provide a COVID secure environment are no small feat given the mounting pressures they face.

“Providing a road map out of lockdown is a tall order, but one that retailers desperately need so they can begin to plan for a sustainable future.”