Department store chains reported buoyant trading last week, boosted by discounting events and price cuts.
House of Fraser launched a five-day promotion offering up to 20% off some brands on Wednesday last week.
Chairman Don McCarthy said it had helped boost sales. “Trade last week was good,” he said. “It’s good as long as you can keep the margin OK. You’ve got to do these kind of events to be proactive about what’s happening in the market. It’s not easy out there, but it’s about having a point of interest.”
Debenhams launched a four-day 25%-off Sale on new season stock on the same day, Bhs had a 20%-off day on Thursday, while John Lewis cut prices as part of its price-matching policy.
John Lewis director of selling operations Nat Wakely said: “Trade was good for the week to March 7. Fashion sales were up like-for-like and kidswear was especially strong, up double digits like-for-like.”
He added that it would be difficult to make like-for-like comparisons until April because of Easter falling late this year.
It is unclear whether discounting on the high street was an attempt to boost flagging sales. Both Debenhams and House of Fraser said their promotional events had been planned.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it was too early to have an overall picture of how March had started, but any benefits from the recent interest rate cut to 0.5% and the Bank of England’s plans to boost the amount of money in the system would take a couple of months to become apparent.
The BRC’s Retail Sales Index figures showed a 1.8% drop in like-for-like sales across the high street in February, as the end of the Sales and bad weather hit trade.
It added that non-food retail sales for the three months to February were down 5.3%.