PARIS — After showing feeble signs of improvement in March, French clothing sales flopped in April, according to data released Thursday.

L’Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) — the French Fashion Institute, in English — reported apparel sales were down 18.8 percent in April, compared with the same period last year. “Very rainy weather has deterred consumers in an uncertain economy,” the IFM pointed out. April 2012 had one fewer Saturday than April 2011, it added.

Most channels registered a double-digit decline. Department stores, supermarkets and independent stores were also severely impacted, down 20.5 percent, 19.8 percent and 20.6 percent, respectively.

The decline was 18.6 percent for variety stores (like Monoprix) and 17.8 percent for the specialty channel, a category that includes H&M and Zara.

Only the mail-order channel managed to fare slighter better, decreasing by 3.3 percent. The IFM noted the channel is “not being penalized by the rainy weather.”

In the first four months of 2012, clothing sales decreased 4 percent, compared with the first four months of 2011, according to the IFM report. Sales of shoes were down 3.3 percent.

Accessories, including leather goods, hats and scarves, were the bright spots, with sales growing 6.9 percent in the first four months, compared with the same period last year.

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