Black Friday discounts failed to provide the required boost for high street fashion stores in November, with sales down 4.9% on the same time last year.
The BDO high street sales tracker, which monitors in-store sales from mid-market retailers including French Connection, White Stuff, Oasis, Karen Millen, Coast, Hobbs and TM Lewin, found that mixed messages and confusing discounting strategies contributed to a downturn across all sectors.
Sales across all sectors fell 4.3% year on year last month, equalling the largest fall in monthly like-for-like sales for this year. The last time the tracker fell this much was in November 2008.
While the headline figures paint a sorry picture of Christmas trading so far, Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at accountancy firm BDO, said the underlying narrative was more positive for retailers.
“Last year’s Black Friday caught many stores off-guard, and panic discounting played havoc with stock levels, leading to erosion in margin and reputational damage when websites crashed and logistics went awry,” she said.
“This year retailers were far more organised and tried to create a pre-Christmas shopping event that works for the UK shopper, with many extending offers over a number of days rather than just Friday. Retailers beefed up their servers and fulfilment centres, and opted for strategic, staggered discounts that were more closely aligned to stock levels.
“The net result was a fall in sales against a high base, but retailers may well have protected their margins. The anecdotal evidence so far is that, while there have been some hiccups, fulfilment has been much smoother than last year, which must be seen as a success,” she added.
“Now Black Friday is out of the way, store-owners will be banking on people having money in their pockets to satisfy pent-up demand in December and spark a pre-Christmas rush of festive shopping to end the year on a high.”