British people aren’t buying clothes anymore.
Figures released Monday by Kantar Worldpanel show that spending on apparel, footwear and accessories has slumped to a seven-year low. In fact, the research firm said the British fashion market lost almost 700 million pounds ($862 million) in the 12 months ended Sept. 25, compared with the previous year, and September was the fourth straight month of sales declines.
“Fashion retailers are still following the same patterns of over-buying and deep discounting and consumers are increasingly reluctant to pay full price,” said Glen Tooke, consumer insight director at Kantar Worldpanel.
In June of this year the research firm revealed that the value of the U.K. fashion market had contracted for the first time in six years, with sales growth falling by 0.1%. Tooke pointed out that instead of addressing the problem of falling sales proactively, retailers have responded by investing less in their lines.
“Rather than chasing after the same ‘micro trends’ as every one of their competitors, they need to work on understanding what their customers really want and to fulfill their needs,” he added. “Most recently the decline has been driven by falling frequencies of buying, giving retailers fewer opportunities to encourage shoppers to part with their cash. As such, they need to ensure that stock availability is as high as it can be—online and offline—and that the shopping experience is based on what the customer actually wants, not what the retailer thinks they should experience.”
Notably, the research firm’s figures don’t take into account the closure of BHS, which shuttered all 163 of its physical locations over the summer and was worth more than 400 million pounds ($492.5 million) in sales. Austin Reed, the 116-year-old British retailer known for its tailoring, was another big casualty on the high street when it closed 120 stores in June.
“Only 10 of our top fashion retailers are worth more than the 700 million pounds which the market has lost, so this decline is equal to one of them disappearing from our high streets,” Tooke noted. “Given the events of this summer this no longer seems impossible.”