Now hang on just a minute. Only last week I published a report about UK retail that said May was a tough month but consumers were buying ‘big ticket’ items (you know, sofas, beds, washing machines etc). But they weren’t buying discretionary stuff like fashion.
Then a report this morning seemed to confirm the tough times on the high street saying footfall edged up but overall sales fell in May. Yet at the same time here’s another report and this one seems to contradict the others.
Now we’re being told consumers are buying fashion and you only have to look around to see how many obviously new pieces they’re wearing.
Visa Europe, whose reports take on more weight as each month goes by given how much we use our payment cards these days, says that spending rose in May. But it also says that consumers spent more on clothes and accessories while cutting back on big ticket items!
Confused? You should be.
OK, Visa says May’s 0.8% spending rise is the slowest increase since early 2014 but clothes and shoes rose 4.2%. Yippee. Online sales rose 2.3%. But car sales slowed down meaning the ‘transport and communications’ category fell 5.2%.
Apart from wondering why transport and communications should be lumped together in one category, my big question is why is this happening? Visa says it’s consumer concerns over a possible Brexit and global economic woes.
At least the weather isn’t being blamed this time around and with fashion sales (supposedly) on the up, we can only assume that a few sunny days in May and some juicy discounts got us all buying off-the-should tops and sandals. Let’s face it, some people must have been spending because just looking around central London last Thursday lunchtime there were a huge number of off-the-should tops being worn and that’s definitely an SS16 trend rather than women digging out their SS15 buys.
It looks like we won’t get a clear picture of what’s happening until the ONS releases official figures, until it revises them a few weeks later and until retailers start releasing interim and full-year results. Watch this space.