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UK Clothing Sales Boosted by Cheap Prices Last Month

Colder weather inspired people in the U.K. to shop for warmer apparel in October, after September’s unusually high temperatures hurt sales volume at clothing stores.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released numbers Tuesday that revealed retail sales gained 1.9% last month compared with September, with the biggest contribution coming from textiles, clothing and footwear stores. In fact, October was a better month for all store types except department stores.

“The strong figures this month have been boosted by several factors. Cooler temperatures in October boosted clothing sales as shoppers took their cue to purchase winter clothing, while the supermarkets benefitted from Halloween,” said Kate Davies, ONS senior statistician. “This has also coincided with the strongest growth in Internet sales seen for five years.”

On a 12-month basis, overall retail sales volume rose 7.4%—the highest rate of growth since April 2002. Included in that increase is a 3.7% gain in sales volume at clothing, textile and footwear stores that saw shoppers spend 3.1% more, which coincided with a 0.6% decline in prices at those stores.

Earlier this month, Kantar Worldpanel released a report titled “Have fashion retailers gone overboard in the U.K.?” which said that British retailers have no one to blame but themselves for choosing to invest heavily in fleeting trends that resulted in a wall of sameness on the high street.

For instance, most stores jumped headfirst into new cuts and styles of denim, spanning cropped flares to frayed hems, yet sales of women’s jeans declined 6.8% in the quarter ended Sept. 25 compared to the same period a year earlier.

Though something clicked with consumers last month, IHS Markit economist Chris Williamson told BBC News that the mini-boom is likely short-lived as he expects clothing sales to return to normal levels in November.