UK high street suffers worst October for a decade as consumers shun shops

Tom Powell
An unusually warm month led to a drop in fashion sales: PA

Retailers have suffered their worst October for a decade following a drop in consumer confidence and pressures on disposable income, figures suggest.

Overall like-for-like sales plunged by 5.2 per cent last month, the worst result for any month since April last year, according to accountancy and advisory firm BDO's High Street Sales Tracker.

It was also the UK's largest year-on-year drop for October on record.

An unusually warm month contributed to a 7.9 per cent year-on-year drop in fashion sales, the worst result for the category in the month of October ever recorded by the tracker.

Like-for-like sales of lifestyle goods slipped by 0.1 per cent, with the only good news coming from online sales which grew by 22 per cent year-on-year.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: "The continuing pressures on disposable income combined with a drop in consumer confidence have hit sales hard this month.

"The sharp decline in October sales will no doubt bring anxiety to UK retail in this critical trading period.

"With margins already tight and Black Friday looming, retailers will be working even harder at promotional activity and product differentiation to convince the reluctant shopper to spend with them.

"We may see a real polarisation of winners and losers on the high street in 2018 or in the near future."

Ms Michael added: "The high street is stuck between a rock and a hard place, with stagnant wage growth limiting spending power while online retailers have attracted what disposable income there is.

"We expect the Chancellor to give the high street some greater certainty by making adjustments to business rates in the Autumn Budget, however the worry is action from the Government will not come quick enough."