High street retailers are more concerned about the weather over the bank holiday than the impact of pre-election political campaigning on consumer confidence.
The UK parliament was formally dissolved on Monday, signalling the official start of the country’s five-week election campaign.
But Phil Wrigley, chairman of Hobbs, which has more than 100 stores across the UK and Ireland, was among those to dismiss its impact on retailing: “It will be more of the same. It’s likely to be another coalition – who that will be, we’ll have to wait and see – but it won’t interfere with retail.”
He continued: “We are more dependent on the weather. It’s blustery out there, but there’s no reason why people won’t be out shopping. We’re in for a reasonable Easter.”
Peter Ruis, chief executive of Jigsaw agreed. “It will be business as usual. Major purchasing decisions like buying houses, cars might be off the agenda but it won’t affect us. We’re expecting another coalition so there won’t be a massive change for our customers.”
He added: “Trade has been subdued as the weather is awful so I don’t think it will be bumper Easter weekend. However the earlier Easter changes customers psyche as they want to get into spring clothing so they will be out shopping.”
William Coe, managing director of eight-store department store group Coes, said: “Historically, elections always slow trade, but hopefully it will not have an impact this early in the campaign. Easter should be good and shoppers will be out.”
Retailers including Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and House of Fraser have launched mid-season Easter Sales of up to 60% off selected lines.
Those retail bosses Drapers spoke to this week were confident the Easter bank holiday on April 3-6 – two weeks earlier than last year and only a week after payday – would kick-start sales after a sluggish start to spring.
Footfall across the UK’s high streets, shopping centres and retail parks is expected to rise 4.7% over the weekend, according to data analyst Springboard.
Mothercare chief executive Mark Newton-Jones said: “We hope Easter will be busy this year. It was unusually warm this time last year, which was fantastic for clothing and footwear as it is a weather-driven business. If the sun is shining people will be out and about.”
Brian Brick, chief executive of menswear retailer Moss Bros, agreed: “Easter trading often depends on the weather. It’s earlier than last year, which I think could help, and it’s around payday, which can’t hurt. If you have a successful Easter it usually balances out the tougher periods around it.”
Retailers in Ireland were also feeling positive about Easter trading. Ray Hernan, chief executive of Dublin department store Arnotts, said: “We’ve already seen an uplift since the kids have been off school and we’re holding fashion shows in store to drive the footfall; we’re not relying on promotions to drive activity.
“It’s great that Easter is early this year as it kick-starts the buying season. It gets shoppers into the mindset that spring has arrived and gets them out shopping.”
The general election will take place on May 7.