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UK consumer spending on clothing, Q4 2014

This sector report appears in Where’s Britain Spending? – a quarterly report from Barclaycard on consumer spending in the UK. To read the full report, please use the download link below.

04 Feb 2015 09:00

In our Q3 report, we noted that the unseasonably warm weather in September meant that consumers were delaying their purchases of new winter clothes. This milder weather continued well into the next month. The BBC reported that Halloween 2014 was the warmest on record, with temperatures approaching a summery 24 °C in parts of London and Kent.

The ongoing warm weather could help explain why spending on clothing only rose by a modest 4.3% year-on-year in the fourth quarter. “This autumn was a bit of a watershed,” agrees Peter Ruis, Chief Executive of Jigsaw. “It didn’t matter how much you took off the product – you were giving margin away as well as deteriorating your brand. You can’t fight 24 degrees on Halloween!”

The British mentality is, ‘It’s October. I don’t care if it’s 24 degrees. I’m not going to buy a t-shirt. If I can’t buy a winter wardrobe, I’ll buy nothing.’  

Peter Ruis, Chief Executive, Jigsaw

Pippa Clarkson, Senior Fashion Buying Lecturer at De Montfort University, agrees with this assessment. “Retail chains Next, M&S and SuperGroup have all blamed their weak growth on the seasonal warm weather,” she says. “Who’d want to buy warm clothing and coats when the weather is so warm in October and November?”

Ms Clarkson also blames ongoing economic insecurity for slow growth in clothing spend in late 2014. “People talk about the economy being on an upward swing and recovering, but I don’t think that’s coming through in clothing,” she says. “Prices haven’t been able to rise because people have so many demands on their personal income.”

Black Friday, in particular, was disappointing for the clothing sector. Discussing the negative side of Black Friday, Mr Ruis says: “With the amount of returns it drives in the fortnight afterwards, the delivery issues it drives, you have to question its value. In 2013, we offered some heavy discounts on Black Friday and we found, with returns and distribution, we probably didn’t make any extra money.”

He adds: “The issue for fashion retailers was that the whole industry was under discount – and I’m talking the premium part of it. Anything from 10% to 25% was the norm on the high street. It’s not just that you’re discounting and discouraging the customer. You also end up with no stock.”

Oct 14

Nov 14

Dec 14

Family clothing




Men’s clothing




Women’s clothing




Department stores




Clothing overall




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The British mentality is, 'It’s October. I don’t care if it’s 24 degrees. I’m not going to buy a t-shirt. If I can’t buy a winter wardrobe, I’ll buy nothing.'

Peter Ruis, Chief Executive, Jigsaw