Footfall numbers show increase of just 1% on last year, despite Sales kicking off a week earlier.
Early Sales on the high street have failed to shift summer stock as cash-strapped shoppers stayed at home, dissatisfied with the depth of discounting and depressed by the chilly, wet weather.
According to Experian Footfall, shopper numbers rose just 1% last week - the first full week of Sale for most multiple retailers, who kicked off discounting up to a week earlier than they had in spring 10. Even more depressingly, this number was against soft comparatives from last year when most of the UK stayed at home to watch the World Cup instead of heading out to the shops.
Figures from BDO Stoy Hayward showed that clothing sales fell 1% on a like-for-like basis for the week to June 19. The previous week, which witnessed the week-early launch of Sales from both Debenhams and House of Fraser on June 9, also recorded a sales decline of 1.3% in the BDO survey.
Some retailers told Drapers that the strategy to stimulate demand with early markdowns had not worked because retailers had launched their Sales with average discounts of 30% in a thinly veiled attempt to protect margin. “Shoppers still won’t look at anything without 50% off,” one young fashion chief executive said.
He added: “Transactions are broadly level. Dresses are on trend which has helped average prices a bit or people are buying more items. Purchasing right now comes down purely to price. We will deepen our discounting next week.”
One senior director of a high street chain said those that had led promotional activity had done slightly better. He explained: “It is clear there is a finite amount of money out there so you have to try to steal a march on the competition.”
He added that this year’s poor weather contrasted with a sustained hot sunny period last year: “This time last year Wimbledon had a new retractable roof installed but didn’t use it. This year it’s going to be covered over every day. That sums everything up really.”
Meanwhile, BDO’s figures said footwear sales rose 10.7% last week, but specialist retailers told Drapers this was skewed by the fact they had been forced into immediate deep discounting because of overstocks on hot weather product like sandals.
Jones Bootmaker chief executive Ken Bartle said: “We have more shoes in the Sale … so the discounting is slightly bigger on those items.”
Sales of men’s suits provided a bright spot for retailers including John Lewis and Moss Bros, which recorded like-for-like sales up 13.4% in the 20 weeks to June 18.
However, according to data seen by Drapers, the suit market continues to decline, albeit at a slower pace. For the 24 weeks to May 15, suit sales by value fell 11% and by volume fell 13%, but the average selling price increased by 3%.
“It was hot this time last year - suits never sell in the hot weather,” one menswear boss said, citing soft comparatives.
Simon Berwin, managing director of suit supplier Berwin & Berwin, added: “It is really being driven by fashion trends. Suits are slimmer and cleaner than ever and if you haven’t got a new suit in your wardrobe this season then you can really notice.”