Retailers have hit out at the “aggressive” Sales run by competitors amid continued tough trading and sluggish consumer confidence.
Figures this week showed that discounting across clothing and footwear continues to be prolific, with promotions leading to double-digit rates of deflation since the start of the year. Figures published this week by the British Retail Consortium and Nielsen show that April’s rate reached 11.3% – a deceleration on March’s 12.3% rate, but higher than the 12-month average of 9.8%. Much of this has been attributed to discounting.
A number of retailers are running promotions to drive footfall, with Liberty giving customers £30 off when they spend £150 or more, Debenhams set to offer 20% off women’s and girls’ dresses from May 8-13, while Asos ran a 60%-off spring knitwear promotion for 24 hours last Saturday.
The chief executive of one womenswear retailer told Drapers that trade was “very variable” at the moment, adding he was exasperated with the discounting, particularly at Asos.
“We are trying to sell full price but clearly customers are still stimulated by promotions and markdowns. Asos in particular has been very aggressive with its sales, running 20% to 25% discounts.”
The chief executive added that he would have to reconsider selling its product through Asos if it continued with such regular promotions. “You can’t have two opposing strategies,” he said.
Patrick Grattan, owner of agent Bluefield Trading, agreed: “It’s getting more and more like the American system where there really is no discounting structure. The big boys [brands] are the worst culprits; it really is affecting independents very negatively.”
The global head of one premium high street retailer added: “We’re being told that things are getting better but it’s not quite filtered all the way down to the consumer. They’re still being pretty canny, maybe not as much as they were, but that’s why retailers are using discounting tactics to entice them in with an offer.”
Honor Westnedge, senior retail analyst at Verdict Research, said retailers were becoming “cleverer” with their promotions.
“Following a heavily discounted Christmas period, this year retailers are becoming much more strategic. Discounts are online or in-store only, or at certain times in the evening.”
Despite what appears to be a constant stream of promotions across the high street, many retailers have vowed not to join in with the discount culture.
Matt Horstead, owner of menswear indie Dartagnan in Chichester, West Sussex, said: “With the discounting, I always think ‘should we join in?’ But we won’t do it. Do it once and you’ve got to do it again.”
The head of the premium high street retailer said: “We tend to hold our ground a little bit to protect the brand more than anything. It’s very easy to do a knee-jerk reaction [to promotions]. But it works both ways, there’s only so much money in the system so you’ve got to be careful – if you leave it too late you miss a bit of that purse.”