The latest BDO sales tracker revealed a 4% slump on the high street in September due to the unseasonal heat, while promotions helped drive sales in the homewares sector.
The high street reported its steepest fall in demand since February 2009 last month, with a 4% like-for-like decline in total retail sales. Non-fashion categories fared slightly better with a 2.2% drop in sales for the month, while homewares gave the best performance, with a like-for-like decline of just 0.9%.
According to BDO, while demand across homewares was lacklustre, it fared better than the other categories, with some evidence of "near normal trading' stimulated by promotions.
The declines in non-fashion were a result of lower footfall in stores, exacerbated by the unseasonal sunshine, said BDO. However, it anticipates an increase in demand over coming weeks, as the weather becomes more autumnal, but warns that consumers appear hamstrung by weak confidence levels meaning retailers may have to promote heavily to encourage demand.
BDO national head of retail and head of wholesale Don Williams said: "Last year consumer confidence was higher, promotions came earlier and the weather played ball. While conditions on the high street are undoubtedly tough, consumer spending is unlikely to collapse completely between now and Christmas> We expect an element of 'bounce back' now the temperature has dropped and the usual seasonal promotions are starting to appear."
He added: "We continue to see polarisation on the high street between 'winners and losers' as this environment is unforgiving for weaker businesses. However, as ever, those retailers that continue to offer the right products at the right price, supported by great service, will be able to persuade even the most cautious consumer to spend."