Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Early Sales are mad as a March hare

Rebecca Furbank is mystified by the short-term attitude of the high street's non-stop discounting

Unlike a lot of my peers, I'm not usually one to moan about the never-ending mid-season Sales of the high street multiples. It's probably because I'm one of those retailers who is lucky enough to be based far away from the high street.

As a destination store that people drive to I'm shielded from the worst effects of this insidious ongoing discounting on smaller retail businesses. It has never seemed that significant to me. I do notice when stores go on Sale, but since it's not happening in my back yard I have been able to stick to my guns and keep to just two Sales a year, in January and July.

So it stopped me in my tracks when within a week a local department store advertised new-season Gerry Weber in its Sale. Then when I opened my Daily Telegraph on Saturday a mini-catalogue fell out, advertising a number of the collections I stock, all at a 25% discount.

Come on guys. Need I remind you we are in March? Not June, not even May, but March. The stock has only just hit the shop floor and it is already being offered at a discount. This seems ludicrous and a little short-sighted. Yes, it might boost trade this time, but what will customers expect next time? Another discount, of course.

I suspect the labels involved are also a little upset about the impact it could have on their brand's profile to be discounted at this time of year. They may be questioning whether this kind of marketing ploy only serves to cheapen their product in the long run.

In the newspapers recently I have read interviews with the outgoing chairman of John Lewis, Sir Stuart Hampson. In one of many articles about him in recent weeks he spoke of the short-sighted nature of some retail businesses. It seems that some look at the immediate future rather than the long-term impact.

Maybe many of those in charge don't really care about the long term, because they may have picked up their bonus and scarpered, retired or simply had enough by the time the damage is done. But certainly not Hampson, who has passed on the mantel of chairman at the height of his career with a clear vision for those he leaves behind at John Lewis.

Jones Bootmaker is another retailer that is looking for longevity rather than short-term gains. Chief executive John Watkinson and his team are rolling out a refit programme and new store strategy, as well as maintaining the traditional quality of the brand. It's a controlled long-term vision. Not rushed, not reactionary, but proactive and long-lasting.

We all know that retail is not an easy business to be in, particularly at the moment. We hear constant tales of woe from high street multiples, but these retailers have to take some responsibility for the rise and fall of trade. Non-stop discounting causes long-term damage for what is actually a short-term gain. Those in charge at these retailers should maybe take Hampson's view and look at leaving a lasting legacy rather than opting for quick fixes.

Despite the local department store's decision to discount in March, I will be sticking to just two Sales a year and will continue to look at marketing strategies that will add value to the product and help to create a wonderful shopping experience for my customers. And with each marketing event I will take time to assess how this will influence my customers' expectations for future events. I will always ask the question: what impact will this have on the next time?

- Rebecca Furbank is a partner in womenswear independent Anne Furbank in Buckden, Cambridgeshire.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.