Autumn ranges and first signs of Christmas a welcome relief for retailers

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The UK’s high streets have just had their best September for five years, figures released by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP reveal.

Overall like-for-like sales increased by 2.9% last month, the best growth for any single month since April 2014.

Well-received autumn lines and carefully targeted discounting helped improve fashion sales by 2.7% in September – albeit off a very weak base of -5.9% for September 2016.

Despite reports of low footfall in September, like-for-like sales of lifestyle goods grew by 3.6%, suggesting shoppers made fewer trips but conversion rates were higher. Some department stores have already reported that savvy shoppers are hunting for early Christmas presents, further boosting the lifestyle and gifting sector.

Non-store sales also leapt by 30.4% year-on-year – the biggest increase since January 2015 – with retailers again citing early Christmas shopping as a factor.

Like-for-like homewares sales also grew by 0.8%.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP said: “Two consecutive months of positive growth will be a welcome relief for retailers following challenges seen in Autumn in prior years.

“Pulling off the best September sales growth for five years is a great result for the high street at the start of this critical trading period,” she said.

“In a month when footfall is down, positive like-for-like sales figures demonstrate that shoppers are willing to spend. The favourable weather patterns in September cannot be ignored, particularly for fashion, but this result will be encouraging for retailers as we enter the final quarter of 2017.

“Retailers will be working hard to entice shoppers whether online or on the high street, and a combination of strategic discounting, a well curated and attractive product range, and targeted promotional activity will determine the winners and losers this Christmas.”