Department stores are set to heap pressure on the high street and premium indies by bringing their summer Sales forward to clear stock and shift to full-price merchandise ahead of the lucrative pre-Ramadan shopping period.
The likes of Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Liberty are among the retailers expected to kick off their Sales in early June as a result of the Ramadan religious festival falling two weeks earlier than last year on August 11 or 12.
Middle Eastern shoppers traditionally prefer to buy full-priced stock, which has forced department stores to rethink their stock clearance strategies to ensure they return to full-price trading with autumn 10 collections in time for the traditional pre-Ramadan influx of high-spending shoppers from the Middle East.
Last year, Middle Eastern shoppers spent £200m in London’s West End in the six-week run-up to Ramadan. According to the New West End Company, the body which represents retailers in the capital’s shopping Mecca of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, this figure is expected to increase by 20% this year, back to the pre-recession levels of 2007.
The average Middle Eastern shopper spends £1,600 per shop visit, compared with £600 by US consumers and £120 by UK shoppers.
New West End Company director of communications Jace Tyrrell confirmed that the crucial pre-Ramadan shopping period would begin on June 1 and end on August 8 this year. He said Middle Eastern tourist spending would peak in the second week of July, by which time retailers were expected to have cleared their spring stock.
Harvey Nichols press and marketing director Julia Bowe said the department store was yet to make a decision about whether to bring forward its Sale date from last year’s June 24.
She said: “The Middle Eastern customer is very important to our year plan. If we moved the Sale earlier, for the brands it could be win-win because they will get full price from the Middle Eastern customer and a week longer to sell through autumn stock.”
One retail chief said: “For the big stores, the pre-Ramadan shopping period [July] is fast becoming their most profitable month - it’s taking over Christmas.
“The reality is that the upside of Middle Eastern shoppers spending at full price is far more lucrative and it outweighs the earlier discounting.”
Harrods declined to comment on the impact of Ramadan but confirmed that its summer Sale period would begin on June 19, eight days earlier than last year, and end on July 11.
A spokeswoman for Selfridges said its Sale traditionally started in June and that the timing of this year’s Ramadan would not influence its dates.
Marks & Spencer declined to comment on “commercially sensitive information”.
Any decision by department stores to fire the starting gun early will put pressure on concession partners and stocked brands to follow suit and would have a knock-on effect on premium indies.
Barrie Rapaport, co-owner of premium indie Bernard of Esher in Surrey, which sells brands including Chloé, Matthew Williamson and PRPS, said: “It’s disgraceful. We never go on Sale early. I think it damages the market.
Mark Bage, owner of York premnium indie Sarah Coggles, said: “[Early Sales] will make city centres busier so indies can gain from higher footfall.”
Amount by which Middle Eastern spend is expected to rise in London’s West End this summer
Average spend per shop visit by Middle Eastern shoppers
Average spend per shop visit by US shoppers
Average spend per shop visit by UK shoppers
Source: New West End Company