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Editor's Comment: Has the discounting dilemma taken a turn?

This week we launch Drapers’ second annual discounting survey.

Discounting is never far from retailers’ minds, thanks in no small part to the volatility of the British weather – and now we are in September, Black Friday is beginning to loom on the horizon.

Many retailers and brands have spent the past few months trying to break free from the discounting trap, implementing clear and considered Sale strategies to optimise sales without taking a hit on margins. However, it’s not easy when so many competitors seem to offer year-round markdowns.

We are constantly speaking to industry leaders about this. Last year, Fat Face boss Anthony Thompson memorably called it a “discounting epidemic”, while retail veteran George Davies warned that the industry is creating “a public that is trained to want discounts”. Jigsaw chief executive Peter Ruis outlined his anti-discounting stance early on, publishing a full-price ”manifesto”.

Despite this, in the 2016 survey, two out of five respondents said their business goes on Sale four or more times a year. The main reasons for this were the competitive marketplace and customer expectations. However, they were clearly open to change – 49% of respondents said they thought discounting was damaging the high street. Many said they are looking to take a more streamlined, targeted approach in 2017.

With this in mind, we are launching the second survey to examine the frequency of discounting now and whether it has changed since last year. It will be interesting to see if and how behaviour has changed. Are retailers really taking a more considered approach to discounting, or are Fat Face and Jigsaw still in the minority? 

Discounting is a necessary and useful part of retailing. The key is to use it in a clever way to shift excess stock without damaging your reputation or encouraging shoppers to only shop at discount prices. Instead of relying on discounting to drive sales, retailers should focus on getting the right product into stores and cultivating a unique brand proposition. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please complete the quick, anonymous survey by 22 September and we will publish the results in the coming weeks.

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