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‘Desperate’ retailers discount autumn stock

High street and online retailers across the UK have launched discounts on new-season products, as warm temperatures dampen demand for autumn stock.

Topshop, River Island, Asos, Debenhams and New Look were among those who offered substantial flash Sale discounts last weekend – up to 40% off new-season product – as the high street continues to battle unpredictable weather patterns and economic uncertainty.

“High street retailers across the country have once again been pressured to put their autumn stock on Sale early,” the chief executive of one British lifestyle retailer, which is only discounting summer stock, told Drapers.

One high street CEO said Brexit uncertainty, warm weather and an over-investment in autumn stock has forced many retailers to cut prices: “The retailers discounting are mainstream rather than those that sell premium product. They are regularly highlighted as having issues – think Asos, and Debenhams.

“As usual, they have brought in overtly autumn product too early, while it’s still warm. They have trained the customer to wait for the discounts to come.”

She added that “strong retailers” that have planned for Brexit, and have stock levels under control, should not have to continually discount.

The CEO of one womenswear retailer, which was not discounting, agreed: “Some players have over-invested in their autumn ranges, and it’s already in store or about to land.

“The current warm weather means that they are even more off balance in terms of positioning. The big multiples are suffering and, as a result, people are diving into Sales activity.

“It feels extremely desperate and I predict that it will be a very discount-heavy autumn.”

He added: “We noticed that some retailers did deals two or three days before payday. With the likes of [payment provider] Klarna offering after-pay options, it means they are able to pull Sales forward a little bit.

“This means that Sales went on for more than a week, and will negatively affect the overall market in general.”

The managing director of one womenswear retailer, which has discounted autumn product, said: “I would speculate that we’ve neither had a good summer nor has the beginning of autumn been cold, so there has been no real reason to spend, weather wise.”

Another high street chief executive said sales in July were strong, but August was “disappointing”, leading many to discount product to shift stock: “The very hot weather last week into the weekend definitely stifled autumn sales.

“I’m not sure what it says about autumn in general as it is too early but the “B” word [Brexit] isn’t helping, and the news on parliament being suspended and the courts reviewing the legality of it does not help [consumer confidence].”



Readers' comments (2)

  • darren hoggett

    It still shows that the industry is not fit for purpose. It continually blames everyone but itself for its own failings, yet it still cannot buy the right product for the right time. Are some store buyers completely inept or are the pressured by their superiors who simply don't know any better?

    Traditionally the U.K has better weather later, yet time and time again stores get too heavier product in for July/Aug/Sept and then complain that they 'have to' (sic) go on sale. You could not make it up.

    The Winter season is relatively short in the U.K and for us it is about 10 weeks, Mid Oct until the end of the year. The savvier brands show very little difference between their Summer and Winter Collections, which simply reflects the U.K marketplace.

    Discounting this year is probably the worst we have ever seen. Some brands are discounting stock online as soon as it lands with its brand partners. Therefore retailers will be within their rights to send affected product back as it is completely disrespectful and offers the retailer no chance of obtaining any decent margin.

    Retail has no credible future until it gets back to basics and deserves no sympathies for its self inflected state.

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  • Well said Darren. Just take your stuff in at the right time. As soon as some big ones hold their nerve ( and their stock ) to the correct selling period the smaller retailers will follow and we will have the industry in line.
    Have some bottle.

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