The August bank holiday weekend fell flat for multiples as warm weather and flash promotions across the high street failed to tempt shoppers into stores.
Discounting on the high street credit Alan Cleaver
Credit: Alan Cleaver
Many retailers kicked off the weekend with discounts in a bid to boost sales following a difficult summer. Examples include Marks & Spencer – which slashed up to 60% off its clothing – and New Look, which provided free delivery on online purchases as well as offering up to 40% off selected products.
Meanwhile, House of Fraser launched its Big Brand Sale, cutting up to 50% off brands including French Connection, Hobbs and Phase Eight.
However, retail analysis firm Springboard reports that despite the discounted prices, footfall across retail destinations fell 3.3% over the weekend, compared with last year.
One department store source said: “The bank holiday weekend was OK, but not anything to write home about. Web sales are much stronger, but store sales were down on last year. It’s not been brilliant.” She added that warm temperatures over the weekend caused a problem for shifting new autumn stock: “It’s hot now and with the autumn stock in, it’s a tricky time. The summer stock is slowing down and people aren’t going mad yet for the autumn stock. We try to run Sale a bit longer so we’ve quite a lot of Sale [items] going through still.”
The managing director of one footwear retailer agreed: “We didn’t have a great week and the bank holiday wasn’t fantastic for us.
“We’re starting to get winter boots in but it’s still too sunny for that at the moment. We really need some normalised weather across the autumn so we know what we’re doing and shoppers can get into a bit of a pattern of buying for the new season.”
He added: “It was a tough season as many retailers are getting into the habit of discounting summer stock too early. There a lot nervousness about in retail.”
The managing director of one menswear multiple said a rival retailer’s discounting of autumn stock over the weekend was “suicide” so early in the season.
“One of our competitors had 20% off new season stock, which is madness. You are giving away the best stock at a lower margin. We went into Sale at the same time as last year, but we came out of Sale quicker so margins were better.”
However, despite an overall dip in footfall across the UK Neil Chadwick, co-founder of Cornish womenswear brand Seasalt, indicated that destination towns fared well over the weekend. “If your product is different enough and your brand’s got a USP, it’s all to play for. Some are finding it tricky but we’re 6% up like for like for whole year. We feel positive for the future,” he added.