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High street retailers predict festive cheer

Retailers are optimistic ahead of the Christmas trading period, and are convinced this week’s election will not deter consumer spending in December.

The impact of the election result will, however, be felt in the spring and the autumn 20 buying season, retailers have predicted.

One footwear retailer said: “We have been outselling since 2 December and experiencing very strong trading. Activity through our own shops, third-party retailers, and online parties are all up year on year and like for like. We’re really flying on our own website as well – sales are up 500% on this time last year.”

Another lifestyle retailer agreed: “We traded well in all channels in November, with strong sales in key categories of knitwear and outerwear. The shift of Black Friday clearly distorted the timing of sales and we will have to wait until online demand washes through to get a complete picture, but it looks like we will be slightly better than last year.

“As always, the next three weeks are critical for every retailer. I anticipate that our physical channels will perform slightly ahead or, at worst, in line with last year and online will show continued growth,” he added. 

Last month, a survey from professional services firm Accenture showed that 87% of shoppers said they planned to spend the same or more compared with last year. 

Earlier this month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that clothing sales in November were up 6% for the period from 27 October to 23 November

“Consumers have opened their wallets to a little extra festive spending this Christmas as the uncertainty surrounding Brexit was pushed back until the new year,” said BRC retail sales monitor manager Anne Alexandre. 

However, despite positive sales, with Black Friday falling closer to Christmas this year, many retailers are having to maintain bigger discounts throughout the festive period.

Richard Lim, chief executive of research consultancy Retail Economics told Drapers this year was going to be an “unusual Christmas”: “The overall factor this year is how much Christmas trade has been dragged into Black Friday at the expense of traditional Christmas spending. How much have retailers had to forgo in terms of their profit margin to drive footfall to generate sales and protect market share from their competitors?”

Despite predicting a “cautious” Christmas, he noted that a positive general election result could release “pent-up [spend] that households should be sitting on”. 

Others told Drapers that consumers’ Christmas spend will not be disrupted by the election. 

“People are so apathetic to what is going on in politics – if the result on Thursday is a hung parliament, people will still buy Christmas gifts,” one supplier told Drapers ahead of the election. “We won’t see an impact from the election result until March/April time and in buying season.” 

“Consumers are so despondent with the country’s political situation,” agreed another retailer. “The fact [the election] is coming at Christmas is not necessarily a bad thing as people are thinking about the excitement of Christmas. What the new year will be like will depend on the outcome of the election. That will determine what mood people will be in.”

One high street CEO told Drapers: “Christmas spend is coming much later and the momentum seems, post-Black Friday, to be in [people looking for good deals]. It is made all the more spikey because we’re spending time planning for what’s going to happen as we head into January with [a range of] possible political and Brexit outcomes.

”Christmas trade will be what it is now. We need to think further ahead and prepare for the election outcome and post-Brexit scenario to get ourselves on the front foot for January trade.”


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