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Election uncertainty ‘completely kills’ fashion sales

Trade has collapsed for all but the value sector on the back of the inconclusive general election result last week, according to high street stores polled by Drapers.

Fashion retailers operating in the middle market said sales were “completely killed off” last Friday, with the trend running through the entire weekend and the early part of this week ahead of the emergence of a coalition government on Tuesday night.

One footwear chief executive said: “Trade collapsed last week following the election. Business has been double-digit down in areas -some of our stores are doing half of what they were doing last year. For the moment I’ve put store openings on hold outside of the M25 until we get a clearer picture on consumer confidence.”

One chief executive of a multiple branded business said: “The weekend was worse than expected with footfall really low, about 20% lower than expected. Consumer sentiment is incredibly negative. It’s almost as bad as when Lehman Brothers collapsed. People stopped spending once the hung parliament was announced.”

In addition, the cold and wet weather compounded trading issues for some retailers, while others pointed to the volcanic ash cloud as having had an adverse affect on tourist numbers and therefore spend.

One fashion director of a high street chain said “the first two or three days were absolutely chaotic” but that online sales improved over the weekend, suggesting the weather played a part in poor footfall.

Meanwhile, value retailers continued to report strong growth, with most saying their low prices and target demographic meant the election was of little concern to their shoppers. One value chief executive said trade was tough over the whole week but that it was purely weather related. He added: “Our customer is not a political animal.”

Coalition outlook

As Drapers went to press, the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat government outlined plans to halt Labour’s proposed rise in National Insurance payments. Ahead of the election both parties said the focus should be on lower public spending, not higher taxes. British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: “The new Chancellor has to respect the importance of retail.”


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