The May Day bank holiday failed to buoy sales for many multiple retailers who had hoped it would kickstart the spring season.
Mixed weather of rain, hail, sleet, snow and sunshine across the UK last week led to what some retailers described as “disappointing” trade over the weekend.
High street footfall fell 2.3% year on year for the week to Saturday April 30, research firm Springboard reported, and retailers suggested this continued throughout the weekend.
The managing director of one footwear chain described sales over the bank holiday as “lacklustre”.
“It wasn’t what we expected and we were disappointed,” he said. ”The weather in London picked up, so it wasn’t as bad as it has been [there] but it was murky elsewhere and the sales reflected that. Seasonal product wasn’t selling. It’s nowhere near where we need it to be.”
“It’s starting to feel spring-like but shoppers are making decisions later,” agreed the chief executive of one premium womenswear chain.
“We need some constant weather for a few weeks to see a peak in the pattern of trade. For the last two years we had a strong April followed by a weak May – I think we will see that flipped this year.”
Touker Suleyman, owner of Hawes & Curtis and Ghost, said footfall was lower than expected on Saturday, although the weekend over was “fine”.
“Everyone was expecting reductions and the high street was full of it,” he added. “Customers no longer want to buy full price. Trade over the last three months has been tough for everyone in retail.”
One young fashion agent said a lot of traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers “were having a hard time”, particularly those with stores in secondary locations.
The chief executive of one high street footwear multiple said retailers were struggling with excess stock: “A lot of retailers are having a big problem getting the same levels [of sales] as last year.
”People are sitting on a lot of seasonal product. No one is buying sandals yet. Luckily we’re not in a bad position but a lot of people are dealing with stock problems.”
One brand source suggested that the next couple of weeks will make or break the season: “It has been an exceptionally cool spring so sell-through hasn’t been going well. That teamed with the warm autumn means I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the big retailers are asking for contributions from suppliers a few miles down the road.”