As Drapers reports that retailers and shoppers could be locked in a battle of wills this Christmas over the contentious issue of discounting, Ruth Faulkner considers who is likely to be the real winner this festive season.
To discount or not to discount? That is the burning question for most retailers especially when it comes to their critical Christmas trading period.
A survey of 3,339 consumers commissioned by private sales etailer Brand Alley and carried out by YouGov found that 53% of shoppers are planning to wait until retailers go on Sale before shopping for Christmas.
However, by contrast the UK high street is noticeably less promotional than it was at this time last year with colder weather helping to drive sales of winter product.
There is no doubt that the issue of discounting divides opinion, so much so, that some retailers have actually spoken out against it, saying they won’t discount at all outside of set sale periods.
Speaking at the Drapers’ fashion summit last week the chief executive of premium womenswear retailer Jaeger, Stewart Binnie, said he had taken the difficult decision to sell at full-price regardless of the wider market.
And guess what? Binnie says the move has paid off. Similarly Fat Face chief executive Anthony Thompson said earlier this year that he was planning to do something similar.
There are those who would say the likes of Jaeger and Fat Face should be applauded for this stance while others would argue that is foolish to make such a bold move in a retail climate where consumers have become trained to expect discounts from the high street as a matter of course.
The research from Brand Alley found that 86% of respondents would shop around for a bargain and were not brand loyal. With that in mind the stance taken by Jaeger and Fat Face could arguably be fruitless. But, by the same token, without a stance like that, how are we ever going to re-educate the consumer to buy at full price?
The outcome of this battle of wills is a difficult one to call. I am of the opinion that the high street has, in recent seasons, been too promotional and so holding out on going on Sale can only be a good thing.
However, if consumers are insistent on waiting for bargains then retailers may well be forced to cave in. They don’t want to miss out on sales, albeit discounted ones, because they tried to hold their nerve for too long.
Although, ultimately, Christmas takes place on December 25 and will go ahead regardless of whether or not the retailers go into Sale early. So perhaps, on this occasion, the high street is in a unique position to win this particular battle.