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Discounts are blight on autumn trading

Jessica Brown

“A week and a half at most,” is the timeframe one high-profile fashion retailer told me was left to save the season. “If we don’t get cold weather by then, autumn will be a write-off,” he added. 

According to the Met Office, temperatures will be near average for October, which by the looks of things won’t be enough to start shifting coats or heavy knits. Promotional activity on these lines has so far had little effect in stimulating sales, and mid-market consumers just aren’t spending on non-essential items.

It now seems certain we’ll see a repeat of the bloodbath discounting of last Christmas, with most retailers forecasting flat sales on last year.

Yes, retailers have bought tightly but when autumn 08 sales were down double digits for most, they won’t have trimmed budgets back anywhere near enough to avoid the red banners this year.

This week saw mid-season Sales or promotions from the likes of Gap, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser, which started the season saying it planned to preserve margin.

Buying market share at the expense of margin may be right for some – George at Asda says it is now bigger than Primark in volume terms – but for others this should be a definite no-no.

Sarah Coggles has kicked off a furore among its suppliers and fellow indies, after running a 30%-off promotion on its website in conjunction with Grazia. While this was undoubtedly great for broadening its own customer base, it was also hugely irresponsible and damaging to the indie and branded community as a whole, which trades on consumer trust. I’d be interested to hear your own thoughts on this issue.

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