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Happy and glorious? Retailers hope for an invite to Jubilee party

Caroline Nodder

With a week to go until the Jubilee celebrations kick off, it seems most of London is awash with red, white and blue and the bunting makers must be thanking their lucky stars.

With a week to go until the Jubilee celebrations kick off, it seems most of London is awash with red, white and blue and the bunting makers must be thanking their lucky stars.

But what will it all mean for the fashion business?

In the short term, the Union Jack shorts and ‘God Save the Queen’ T-shirts might fly off the shelves for some, and no doubt the event will bring tourists and extra visitors into London and other town and city centres for events and parades, so there are opportunities there. The challenge will be to encourage additional spend and not just sales of novelty value items.

The danger is that despite the extra bank holiday, the number of events that are being held over the four days and the predicted spell of hot weather will keep customers out of the shops and encourage them to party instead.

This effect was seen over the royal wedding weekend last year, when many stayed at home to watch or went to the pub rather than the shops, which meant overall sales were not as good as many retailers had hoped.

And in some areas the usual shopping crowd might stay out of the main shopping areas for fear they will be more crowded over the Jubilee period, so retailers will lose some of their regular custom.

The events themselves might, however, encourage some additional spend on occasionwear of course, so the next week should hopefully see an uplift in this area as people prepare for the celebrations.

But despite all the challenges and pressures on retailers, the really big positive in all this is, in my view, a longer-term uplift in consumer confidence. We’ve seen news reports saying the double-dip recession and the appalling weather of the last two months have severely dented confidence, and most retailers I’ve spoken to recently have said they are struggling with really unpredictable trading patterns.

A day of torrential rain, or a national news story on the worsening European crisis, can kill trade dead overnight. And a sunny day can send everyone running for the shops to stock up on shorts.

This nervous consumer behaviour plays havoc with retailers’ buying strategies and stock levels and can lead to serious cash-flow issues.

The hope is that the Jubilee will not only boost our international profile and encourage more high-spending visitors from China, for example, to holiday in the UK, but will also help to build some confidence among shoppers.

After the winter we’ve had, we all need a good reason to celebrate and this is the beginning of what should be a summer to remember – let’s hope it lifts the national mood and persuades shoppers to loosen those purse strings and let their inner capitalist shine through.

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