Retailers are hoping for a last-minute boost in sales in the run-up to Christmas, after suffering a now-typical lull following Black Friday.
Fergus Patterson, UK and Ireland managing director at Gant, said Black Friday had changed the shape of Christmas trading once again: “Sales were solid in the lead-up to Black Friday, although they dipped dramatically in the day or two before the day itself. The event was strong, although we only did a tactical discount, as opposed to a blanket promotion.
“Since Black Friday, sales have noticeably softened and, although online has traded well, high street footfall has been down, with weekends especially disappointing. With Christmas falling on Sunday, we are still cautiously optimistic for a strong (but late) finish to trading.”
John Lewis fashion buying director Ed Connolly agreed: “Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year means that customers have a full extra day shopping and are likely to leave their purchases until the last minute, as we’ve seen in previous years.”
Suppliers to high street multiples are bracing themselves for a difficult Christmas trading period.
One young fashion supplier said: “Speaking to the big guys like Arcadia and New Look, it isn’t easy out there. The online guys are doing well, but the high street players are struggling to catch up. A few have cancelled orders or are trying to as they are overstocked. We need it to stay cold to get sales going.”
A womenswear supplier agreed: “It is really tough out there. My customers are struggling. People are being very canny with their money and waiting on the [post-Christmas] Sales.”
However, business advisory firm Deloitte predicts that retails sales will rise by 4% year on year to £42.8bn in December. The growth will be spurred by the fact that Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year, rounding off a full week of shopping.
Online sales are expected to lead the way, increasing by 21% and exceeding £7bn for the first time.
Deloitte’s head of retail, Ian Geddes, said last-minute shoppers are expected to be out in force on 24 December, while Boxing Day falling on a Monday means a full day of trading that could provide a further boost.
“I believe, in difficult years, families do come together to enjoy the festive period so I am optimistic it will be a good one.”