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Easter dates fuel trade woe

High street retailers are battling with the conundrum of an early Easter combined with tough trading conditions, which has thrown their discounting policies into disarray.

Marks & Spencer launched a 50%-off mid-season Sale this week, which it said had been dictated by Easter weekend falling early this year.

However, other retailers said that tough trading and the combination of Mother’s Day, Easter and half-term holidays falling early and in quick succession meant that deciding when to discount had not been easy. Others said they were concerned about trade nosediving in April with no major event in the month around which to base their promotions.

The prolonged cold weather has also meant that multiples have not had a full run at selling spring stock at full price before Easter.
One menswear retailer said: “We’ve got five weeks in March this year, rather than four, and the Sale wasn’t in March last year. The real test will be March and April together.”

John Lewis director of retail, design and development Gareth Thomas said: “An early Easter, as always, is a little more challenging. The only thing that’s consistent is that it’s tough.”

The director of one high street retailer said trading patterns following last week’s pay day would give the truest picture of consumer caution since Christmas, because some shoppers had been paying down their credit cards in January.

He said: “Last weekend people were at least out on the street, but it wasn’t enough to make up the shortfall. Now we are back to the real base and it’s looking tough.”

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