High street fashion retailers have suffered their worst July since 2009 as shoppers divert their attention to essential spending, figures suggest.
Fashion sales slumped by 3.5% year-on-year last month, despite the onset of sale season, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.
The drop dragged overall sales for July into the negative, down by 0.6%, during the traditional summer discounting period for retailers, reflecting consumer reaction to rising inflation and falling real wages.
BDO said UK retailers started the month feeling bullish after a strong June, with many expecting to clear their summer stock in July.
Homeware performed better, with sales up 5.8% as shoppers bagged bargains, while overseas visitors bolstered lifestyle sales, up 4.5% year-on-year.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: "While June's sunshine demonstrated that the sun can whet consumer appetite for shopping, poor weather at the end of July combined with consumers starting to feel the pinch took its toll on fashion last month.
"It is apparent that shoppers are diverting their attention to essentials and tightening their belts.
"The concern here is that sales have diminished in a typical month for discounting, when retailers traditionally look to clear stock to make room for new ranges.
"The results imply that the road ahead may be even more challenging than expected."