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Panic Sales start as Christmas looms

The UK high street was littered with red Sale signs this week as retailers slashed prices to counteract a drop-off in sales following Black Friday.

It comes after footfall across UK high streets fell 4.2% year on year for the week to December 6, according to research firm Springboard. Many retailers reported dwindling trade.

As a result, the number of fashion multiples and etailers offering targeted promotions and flash Sales this week has risen by 15% compared to the same period in 2014, according to digital marketing firm SalesGossip, which has a 1,300-strong database.

Marks & Spencer is offering 30% off women’s partywear, while has 30% off “gifts”, including selected clothing, this week. Coast is offering 40% off festive favourites.

Footwear brand Moda in Pelle offered shoppers 50% off selected lines for 24 hours on December 8. Topman launched a one-day flash Sale offering 20% off everything until midnight on December 9.

LK Bennett’s end-of-season Sale will start on December 11, while House of Fraser will launch its usual two-day brand event on December 12.

Jacques Vert Group, which has nine stores and more than 400 concessions in department stores, including Debenhams, and is currently offering up to 50% off selected clothing and accessories.

Its chief financial officer, Shaun Wills, said: “Black Friday has resulted in reduced footfall on the high street for the second year in a row.

“That leads to less impulse buying while people are out and about and lower high street sales. The result is more intensive discounting to attract people into stores and clear stock and a customer that is becoming increasingly used to significant discounts in the run-up to Christmas.”

“Customers didn’t shop in the run-up to Black Friday, and since the discount banners came down last week sales have dropped,” agreed the head buyer for one footwear multiple. “A quiet start to December will make many retailers panic and we will see more discounting pre-Christmas.”

Steven Cohen, chief executive of young fashion chain Blue Inc, which was selling all stock for £20 on Wednesday, said: “Black Friday was very big this year, so that has shifted things. It has been very mild, so everyone seems to be doing a bit of promotion. But it’s all still to play for.”

Independent retailers agreed that pre-Christmas discounting was rife yet again this year, with some saying they felt forced to join in.

Jo Davies, owner of contemporary womenswear retailer Black White Denim in Wilmslow, Cheshire, which is refusing to discount, said: “A lot of high street retailers are on Sale. Those who have overbought have gone on Sale early as they feel they have to. Those who have kept a careful eye on their buying and stock levels during the season don’t need to.

“It’s ridiculous as it’s the one time of year when people want to spend money.”

But Hilary Cookson, owner of women’s occasionwear independent Maureen Cookson in Clitheroe, Lancashire, said the warm autumn weather had forced her, and others, into Sale in early December.

“If you are not flooded out with water, you are no doubt flooded out with winter merchandise that is forced into Sale before the weather has even gone cold.

“I’m chasing the cash with a discounting event with fellow retailers in my town this coming Saturday. Of course, the impact will be on my forward orders for next autumn; my budgets are being cut like the NHS.”

William Coe, managing director of the six-store Coes department store group, said: “For us, Christmas has started slightly up on last year and I think it will end up being better. Customers are feeling more optimistic but this confidence, I would argue, is still fragile.

“In an ideal world, the high street should hold off until Boxing Day, but I don’t believe this will happen as there is fundamentally still oversupply in the market.”


Readers' comments (4)

  • Common sense hasn't prevailed and the mismanagement of retail as a whole has created the situation we are now in and Black Friday has made things significantly worse. December was - and still should be - the month where healthy profits are made by all.

    We are in a very much secondary location, but I fear for many indies with high expenses and prime locations who cannot compete in this chaos. The more cynical have viewed that this suits the large stores as if this scenario continues, it will all but wipe the strongest of Independents out, as they will struggle to meet the minimum order requirements of most of their brand partners and ultimately lead to their demise without massive reinvention.

    A would advise any Indie that has a brand that consistently and excessively discounts on their own website, to remind them of that very fact when they expect the next forward order.

    Tougher times ahead.

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  • As an independent retailer of 10 years standing, it all seems to be a never ending downward spiral to the cheapest common factor! I will not be in sale until after Christmas, customers know that and make their choices. As a result, I will place fewer forward orders and make more in season decisions - just like my customers! The sooner suppliers get used to that scenario the better.

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  • The issue is more 'over supply' than Black Friday.

    It won't be just indies that suffer. There are plenty of well known brands that are suffering.

    Expect some more 'administration' cases in the New Year.

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  • Too much stock has been bought, as Black Friday predictions flopped, sales for after Christmas will be incredible. Consumers should expect lots of bargains

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