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High street records negative sales for first time in over two years
09 June 2023

The high street has recorded negative sales for the first time in more than two years as the cost of living bites, according to new figures.

Total like-for-like retail sales, combining in-store and online, fell by 1.5% overall compared with last May, according to business advisory firm BDO’s latest High Street Sales Tracker.

Online sales fell by 3.3%, one of the lowest results recorded outside of the pandemic, while in-store sales rose by just 1% across the month.

The homewares sector recorded a “very poor” total fall of 9.2% in May – off the back of last May’s 14.9% decline – as the higher cost of big-ticket items and rising interest rates deterred budget-conscious shoppers from spending on furniture and electronics.

Fashion recorded its third consecutive month of poor results, with total sales down by 1.5% in May – the first time in more than two years that the sector has recorded negative growth.

The lifestyle sector was the only category to record growth in May, but at a “far from reassuring” 0.7%.

The negative figures mark the end of 26 months of positive results dating back to March 2021.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “These results are extremely discouraging.

“Like for likes are an absolute value and therefore, given the high inflation rates, these figures suggest significant drops in volumes.

“With three bank holidays last month and the fact that footfall has increased compared to this time last year, these results highlight the huge pressure on the consumer purse.

“The drop in online sales is also stark, recording the worst online sales results on record with the exception of the months impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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