Department stores and multiples with stores across the UK are hoping the Easter bank holiday weekend will provide a welcome uplift to sales following a challenging start to the spring season.
Fashion and footwear retailers told Drapers trade improved last week and they are looking to build on this momentum, despite the forecasts of wet and windy weather on Saturday and into next week.
“We saw some green shoots last week in stores and we think there will be an improvement in trade over the bank holiday weekend,” said one department store source. “Unfortunately the weather is going to turn, but we’re hoping people will still be out and about on Friday. I’m feeling a bit more optimistic than I was two weeks ago.”
She added: “The uncertainty in the market about [the UK’s position in the European Union] isn’t helping trade. The fact that the industry is so split is worrying, as people really don’t know what to do.”
Peter Ruis, chief executive of Jigsaw, said trade last week was “fantastic”, but added: “Customers are starting to build but they are probably reacting later to newness than last year, maybe because of the fact that it has been cooler this March.”
One chief executive of a department store chain said it has been tough to predict sales patterns this spring: “February was difficult and so far this month it has been very up and down, and changeable from week to week.”
The managing director of one footwear multiple said: “We had a good week last week and a lot of the trade was on full-price stock, so that has helped. It was the first week of the year where we had nice trade across the UK and Ireland but it is still fragile out there.
“Easter is early, so we are hoping it will give us a good start to the season.”
Tony Links, buying manager for 22-store menswear chain Slaters, was also optimistic about trading: “Things are steady for us, wedding season has started and the Scottish prom season is starting earlier, before exams in April. Tailoring is going well and people are looking for a point of difference.”
He added: “While there is some uncertainty around Brexit, I don’t think it’ll affect whether or not people buy suits or jumpers.”
This week, credit ratings agency Moody’s warned that, if the UK leaves the EU, the uncertainty over negotiations could trigger a credit downgrade for some of the UK’s biggest companies.
A Brexit could impact on supply chains for retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Next if import tariffs are imposed by the UK on supplies sourced from the EU or other regions with which the EU has trade agreements, the report found.