The great news for retailers in West Malling, and indeed the UK as a whole, is that shopper confidence finally seems to be returning. Last month national retail sales grew at their highest rate in three years according to figures released by the British Retail Consortium.
|Gradual improvement and customers feeling a bit more positive|
Helen Dickinson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium said, "It's reassuring that the sales momentum established during an encouraging January has built not faded. There are certainly highly-welcome signs here of gradual improvement and customers feeling a bit more positive.”
February sales were stimulated by a number of individual factors, but in general these were all linked by one key theme, which was retailers responding to their customers’ needs. The heavy snowfall at the end of January kept many shoppers indoors, so a large number of retailers responded by extending their January sales into February, and apparently reaped the rewards of doing so.
One retail sector that displayed strong growth was gifts, and this was likely to be due to Valentine’s Day halfway through the month, and a fairly early Mother’s day at the beginning of March. Retailers that tailored their product offering to these occasions and spent extra time and effort promoting their gift ranges are sure to have profited. Homeware sales also grew impressively, which may be linked to the recent upturn in the housing market.
Fashion was another sector that performed well and this will have been influenced by London Fashion Week. Shoes are usually the best selling fashion items in February but this year Spring clothing ranges were outselling shoes for a large part of the month. Again, fashion retailers that responded to the trends seen during Fashion Week would have been able to make good use of the momentum it created.
With the arrival of several new shops in West Malling during the beginning of 2013, the signs are good for retailers. The lastest arrivals in the West Malling High Street include Fragolina - vintage clothes boutique, Number 39 - ladies shoes, bags and accessories and several new shops in Abbey Arcade, including From Mimi - baby and childrens clothing boutique, Baby Bea - for Mum-to-be, new baby and new Mum and All Things Beautiful for home accessories.
Overall these figures are a very positive sign for retailers. While nobody would dispute that times are still hard, it is clear that there are shoppers out there and they are increasingly ready to spend. Retailers that really understand what their customers want, and respond to those needs as well as to local and national events, are likely to be the ones whose businesses survive and grow despite difficult economic times.