Toiletries and cosmetics performed well in the BRC’s March survey amid dismal figures for bigger price items such as homeware.
However, Mothering Sunday fell late in the month this year which boosted sales in comparison to last year when gift purchases would have boosted the February sales figures, explained the BRC’s Joscelyne Hynard.
Perfumery, skincare and beauty up
According to the report, perfumery, skincare and beauty products benefited and the unseasonal weather boosted suncare sales.
However, one of the most important trends to come out of the survey is the search for value, explained Hynard.
“People are thinking before buying. If they can save a penny or two then they will,” she told CosmeticsDesign.
This may also result in a tendency to trade down with consumers purchasing low price essentials from supermarkets rather than choosing mid-high price items from specialist stores, she said.
Nevertheless, the report noted the success of some premium brands in the midst of the bargain hunting.
For Hynard this can be explained by successful discounting campaigns and in some cases trade from European customers looking to take advantage of the good exchange rates.
Overall retail sales fell
Overall, UK retail sales values fell 1.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis and rose 0.6 per cent on a total basis.
Food and drink, clothing and footwear were all up on last year’s figures. However, furniture, home textiles, other non food and home accessories all suffered a drop in comparison to last year’s figures.
Commenting on the results, director general of the BRC Stephen Robertson said the slight improvements in certain sectors may not mean confidence is coming back.
“But this is unlikely to be the basis of sustained improvement. Customers are still worried about jobs and their own finances - so they’re keeping spending under tight control.
“We’ve now seen negative like-for-like sales growth in nine of the past ten months. A revival in sales of big-ticket items would indicate confidence is coming back but, despite the discounts, furniture sales were the worst for at least nine years,” he said.