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Easter disappoints high street

The Easter weekend saw steady trading across the high street but failed to provide any significant boost for most fashion retailers, despite a wave of promotional activity.

House of Fraser, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer were among the retailers offering Sales and discounts of up to 75% to tempt shoppers. However, promotions appeared to have little effect, with footfall over the crucial Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Monday falling 5.5% compared with Easter last year, according to analyst Experian.

Only London’s West End experienced an uplift in shoppers, rising 2% thanks to an influx of tourists taking advantage of the weak sterling.
John Lewis director of selling operations Dan Knowles said sales for the week to Saturday April 11 were down 1.5% on a like-for-like basis compared with the same week last year.

“Saturday was our worst day of the week because the weather was good in most parts, but we’re happy with the performance overall as it’s in line with how we’ve been trading,” he said.

Department store chain House of Fraser held a 50%-off Sale over Easter. Chairman Don McCarthy said Easter trade had been satisfactory. “There are a lot of markdowns on the high street but everyone has to offer shoppers something [in the current climate],” he said. “The important thing is that trading was OK and margins were ahead of the Sale last year.”

Neil Prosser, chief executive of designer chain Flannels, was among retailers at the premium end of the market who found Easter satisfactory, but said it had not provided much of a fillip to a tough year so far. “Easter was OK, but there’s just no massive buzz out there,” he said. “We’re trying not to go down the discounting and price promotions route because it doesn’t do you any favours,” he said.

Retailers at the value end of the market had a better time, consistent with the general pattern of first quarter trading. Like-for-like sales at value chain QS were up 7.8% over Easter compared with last year, while another director of an unnamed value fashion chain said sales were up 15% compared with last Easter.

Footwear retailers were also said to have been winners over Easter. The boss of one footwear multiple said its Easter performance had improved on the year before. “The Saturday was bad but that didn’t detract from the week,” he said. “Our Sale contributed to an uplift and better footfall, so it paid off.”

Easter essentials

Footfall - down 5.5% over Easter weekend
Like-for-like sales - up 10.5% for the week ended April 12 against the same week last year

  • Sources: Experian and BDO Stoy Hayward

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