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Editor's Comment: 'Make or break' Christmas is endnote to tough 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, many in the industry will be breathing a sigh of relief. For some, it has been an incredibly difficult 12 months. 

The Brexit deal vote has been postponed, and Theresa May has survived a vote of no confidence from her own party. As she continues discussions with the European Union, uncertainty looks set to continue into 2019.

Retailers are cautious about the coming weeks and Christmas trading expectations are low. Following another November dominated by discounting, promotions continue across the high street as retailers struggle to shift stock.

We will be sure to see some casualties in January.  All eyes will be on Debenhams in the new year as this festive season has been pegged as a “make or break” period for the struggling department store. 

Brands will also be watching closely as House of Fraser continues to dominate the headlines and Mike Ashley pushes forward with his strategy to make it the “Harrods of the high street”.

It has been a challenging year, but we have also seen some positive highlights. The big events of 2018, such as the World Cup and the royal wedding raised the profile of the occasionwear market, driving sales of waistcoats, yellow dresses and halter-neck styles.

We have seen new players in the market, such as Gymshark and In The Style, make their mark and create new excitement in the industry. Digital players have continued to show growth, and the Boohoo Group in particular has driven phenomenal success across its brands. On the high street, players such as JD Sports, Primark and Zara have bucked the trend and posted positive trading results.

This year, a raft of new store openings and the launch of shopping destinations, such as Coal Drops Yard in London’s King’s Cross created experiences to drive footfall back to the high street.

Retailers are embracing digital, and introducing technologies such as artificial intelligence to change the way they work and increase efficiency across the business. Organisational structures have been streamlined and new roles introduced as multichannel strategies evolve.

Innovation, strong product collections and clear customer focus sit at the heart of the retailers leading the way. As we head into a new year, challenges remain but the strength of this industry, its people and its product will continue to drive success. 


Readers' comments (3)

  • There is far too much product out there and clothing is way down the list of priorities for most people these days. Unless a customer must have an item, they are more than happy to wait a few weeks to get a discount. The likes of All Saints have bombarded customers with sale and discount emails since September going from mid season sale to 20% , 30% and now 40% off but everyone knows that it will be 50% off in the next week or so and then 50% plus an additional 20% off after Christmas. The industry is also shooting itself in the foot by constantly having product on the rails that is not season appropriate . As soon as the weather starts to get cold everyone is selling off their winter stock & filling the rails with spring stock. Similarly, just as the weather heats up in June, wool coats are being delivered. Customers only want to buy what they want and when they want it... clearing excess stock is now a huge struggle, even at colossal discount

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  • I wish Drapers would refrain from shoehorning Brexit in articles wherever possible. It is not relevant, it is usually used as an excuse by senior management who haven't hit targets.

    What Drapers should focus on is the lack of discipline within the industry. The damage that some brands are doing with their endless discounting is driving retail into a corner. How can 'Brand Partners' - and I'll use that word loosely - expect orders when they are even selling at cost to less than cost on current product? Focus on that.

    The damage that some so called 'brand managers' do, is worse than any attempt to leave the EU.

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  • darren hoggett

    Agree with both comments. It seems the trade is looking for blame when it should be blaming itself. I've never known it in such a mess.

    Things will only change if there is change at the top. But how does that happen when the cream is rarely allowed to rise?

    Persistent discounting and Mismanagement usually goes hand in hand, so it doesn't take long to point the finger of where the real problems lie.

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