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Retailers can’t stand the heat

Caroline Nodder

The British weather can always be relied upon to throw you a curve ball or two every year, and this autumn is no exception.

The British weather can always be relied upon to throw you a curve ball or two every year, and this autumn is no exception.

Where the poor summer weather probably played well for most of the fashion retail sector – pushing sales of the more striking autumnal trends earlier and faster than we might otherwise have expected – things have slowed worryingly in the past couple of weeks, according to figures released by the BDO in its high street sales tracker.

There could be a number of reasons for this. Perhaps the burst of early autumnal consumer purchases means that many have already updated their wardrobes. Or maybe the headlines regarding the poor health of the British, European and indeed worldwide economies have led to shoppers tightening their belts again.

Either way, it already looks like the early summer Sales are going to be followed by extremely early autumn ones, as retailers seek to drive some cash into their businesses.

The curve ball mentioned earlier will now come into play, as a UK-wide heat wave drives people back into their summer clothes this week, just as most retailers have sold the final few items of last season’s stock. Some retailers tell us they have been on the phone to their short-order suppliers and are doing a surprisingly unseasonal trade in light summer maxi dresses. Others will have been caught on the hop and are likely to be staring at a shopper-free shop and piles of unsold winter coats.

Analysts tell us that at this time of year, the daily temperature correlates almost exactly to the rise and fall of fashion retail sales, and last week, as temperatures began to rise, sales were already starting to drop off sharply. So goodness knows what four days of 27°C heat this week will do to autumn sales figures – certainly nothing good.

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