High street retailers and etailers began cutting prices on spring 15 stock as far back as mid-January, suggesting the shift towards earlier discounts is continuing.
Many retailers began reductions this week, including Marks & Spencer, which offered 20% off new season stock online on Monday.
However, Arcadia’s Wallis and Dorothy Perkins chains ran weekend promotions on spring 15 product in January, according to digital marketing platform SalesGossip, while New Look, Laura Ashley and Bonmarché were among those to discount in February.
UK clothing and footwear prices fell 7.8% year on year in February, according to data from the British Retail Consortium, compared with a 6.8% drop in January.
Honor Westnedge, lead retail analyst at research firm Verdict, said the pattern of going into Sale earlier emerged in 2014. “Last year we couldn’t believe how early retailers were putting new season into Sale – at the end of January – and it has all been brought forward to the same time this year.
“A slow autumn last season would mean retailers are keen to drive sales in the first few months of this year. They are discounting to generate interest with shoppers and, if they can generate the volume of sales, that will offset the drop in margin.”
One retail veteran agreed that multiples are being forced to discount earlier to entice consumers to spend, adding: “It’s all about the blended margin; the low margins of discounted goods will balance out with full-price stock.”
Independent retailers said longer discounting periods on the high street are having a detrimental effect on their businesses.
Matt Horstead, owner of menswear retailer Dartagnan in Chichester, West Sussex, said: “Before long we will be asking when multiples are not in Sale. It’s insane. A lot of them have been discounting continuously since Black Friday (November 28, 2014). There has definitely been a shift in discounting culture since last year and it will wipe out the independents.”
Julia Aitken, owner of womenswear boutique Stanwells, which has two stores in Bournemouth and Lymington, Hampshire, said “panic discounting” by multiples is debasing the value of products.
She added: “It has to stop, it’s ruining the trade. We have to hold our nerve because the weather will change. Anyone can sell something cheap, we have to be more savvy with our marketing rather than resorting to discounting to drive footfall – profit is better than turnover.”
Discounts on spring 15 stock:
- Dorothy Perkins – 20% off, January 16-19
- Wallis - 20% off, January 23-26
- Burton – 20% off, early February
- New Look and Laura Ashley – 20% off, mid-February
- Bonmarche – 20% off, February 22-26
- Debenhams – 25% off, February 24 to March 1
- Marks & Spencer – 20% off online, March 2
- H&M – 50% off fashion and homeware online, March 3-4
- Kurt Geiger, Asos and Amazon – 20% off, this week
- George at Asda – 50% off, this week
- Asos.com – 20% off this week
Sources: SalesGossip, Drapers