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Late shoppers fail to bring Christmas cheer

A Christmas shopping rush has come too late for most retailers, with the best-performing stores being those who have already started discounting.

The most positive of the retailers Drapers spoke to this week had already cut its prices. "We went on Sale and took £400,000 more profit than the previous week, so it was the right decision," said the chief executive of one value chain. "Stock is not an issue for us and the Sale is working out much better than other types of buy-one-get-one-free promotions, which kill margin."

Other retailers said keeping stock tight had helped their performance. The boss of one young fashion retailer said: "We've held stock frighteningly tight, allowing us to trade at full price, and the hit rate on product is good. We had a lot more promotion last year than this year because we thought it would be better to trade at full price. This week has started OK."

According to research firm FootFall, shopper numbers last Saturday were up 3.8% on the same day last year, while on Sunday they rose 8.9%. It said the Christmas rush was two weeks late and had been driven by retailers discounting.

One disappointed young fashion boss said: "We are not hitting our targets. We had a clearance on womenswear so we are positive on that, but menswear footfall isn’t there."

City analysts have started to predict who will suffer the fall-out from poor Christmas trading. This week, broker Seymour Pierce downgraded its full-year profit forecasts for Next from £499 million to £490m. It also reduced its Debenhams profit forecast from £147m to £139m.

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