Independent retailers are feeling the pressure this Christmas as multiples’ targeted discounting and voucher codes have forced them to compete with “aggressive” price cuts.
Marina McKeever, senior director of sales at VoucherCodes.co.uk, said there had been a “significant increase” in the number of discount codes released by retailers in the run-up to Christmas this year.
During November fashion retailers issued 29% more codes compared with the same period last year, while the number of in-store offers jumped 43% year on year to tempt shoppers onto the high street.
As Drapers went to press, New Look was offering £20 off leather jackets, Gap 40% off selected kidswear, Office 30% off selected women’s shoes and Debenhams 15% off lingerie, beauty, fragrance and accessories, among others.
Ann Jordan, manager of premium womenswear store Please Don’t Tell in Belfast, said she was forced to go into Sale early this season because of the pressure to compete against high street promotions.
She said: “[Discounting] is getting earlier every year. With constant discounting on the high street it’s impossible to sell full price. With the likes of House of Fraser having 40% off and My-Wardrobe.com offering 20%-off vouchers all season, it’s a race to the bottom.”
Melissa Wheeler, manager of womenswear indie Ambiance in Colchester, agreed that high street discounting had become “more aggressive and premature”.
British Independent Retail Association deputy chief executive Michael Weedon said independents were “taking hits” from flash Sales rather than blanket Sales this year.
He said: “There are far fewer signs in the windows than we’ve been used to and they’re smaller Sales too; 40% is the new 70%. Independents are more nervous about Sales online.”
Yvette Davies, owner of contemporary womenswear store Thirty Three Boutique in Lymington, Hampshire, said the constant price cuts were teaching shoppers to “hold out for a bargain”.
She said: “Once the department stores and multiples like Phase Eight and Monsoon go into Sale we have to go. If you have stock to shift there’s only a finite period to do so.”
Hilary Cookson, owner of occasionwear boutique Maureen Cookson in Clitheroe, Lancashire, said suppliers were also guilty of undercutting independents. She said: “They recommend prices for us but then they go on Sale on Regent Street at a discount. Most indies are considering going on Sale early.”
However, some multiples are holding their nerve in the run-up to Christmas. Anthony Thompson, chief executive of Fat Face, said it will be the fourth Christmas where the chain has maintained a full-price strategy until Boxing Day.
He said: “It’s about price integrity, it’s about our customers being able to trust our product and not feeling undermined when a product gets discounted a week or so after they’ve bought it.”