Multiples and independents have grappled with unseasonably wet, cold weather and an early Easter this year.
Rainy weather dampened footfall over the weekend, with Easter Monday taking the biggest hit – down 12.6% year on year, according to Springboard data.
The managing director of one leading footwear chain told Drapers that trade over the weekend had been “pretty bad.”
“The weather has been iffy and everyone is pretty much done with the winter stock but customers don’t have the confidence to buy summer stock. It’s been pretty tricky, and we’re definitely down Easter-on-Easter.”
He added that many retailers resorted to discounting over the weekend to boost trade: “You’ll see in the high street people have been discounting. Retail is just feeling a little bit sorry for itself at the minute and consumers are tight pursed. They’ve got to have a very good reason to shop.”
Fat Face CEO Anthony Thompson agreed the market was promotional: “We weren’t on Sale, we weren’t doing any discounting, but I did notice in the market there was a lot of promotional activity [elsewhere].”
However, he added that sales had been in line with expectations and he was pleased with performance overall, with customers continuing to buy colder-weather stock.
“It was a reasonable weekend in line with expectations, and Easter Sunday was better than we thought. In broad terms, we picked up in knitwear and outerwear what we lost in the warmer-weather categories.”
Independent retailer Hilary Cookson, owner of Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire, said sales were down 30% compared with last Easter, thanks to an “unusual cocktail” of road works in the village, snow, and increasingly cautious consumers. Other retailers in the area were down as much as 80%, she said.
“The weather is a massive factor. It’s very difficult to persuade people to buy spring clothes when we’re two-foot-deep in snow. Trading is very, very difficult. Historically, Easter was always our biggest trading weekend and it’s woefully not.”
Other independent retailers, however, said trade was better than expected as shoppers stayed local.
Deryane Tadd, owner of The Dressing Room in St Albans, said comparative sales were up 150% on Easter Sunday, 50% on Saturday and 20% on Monday.
“It was a very, very busy weekend for us. I expected the weather to negatively impact us but we were pleasantly surprised. With Easter being earlier, some of our customers were going away later in the school holidays, which made a big difference as they were shopping [for those holidays].
“We’re selling tonnes and tonnes of trainers, lots of denim and silk blouses – trans-seasonal pieces that feel more spring-like.”
Darren Hoggett co-owner of J&B Menswear in Norwich said sales had been “great” over the bank holiday weekend.
“Generally, this year has been probably the most consistent we’ve had. We don’t mark down – it’s all full price. We’re known for not discounting, which means we’ve got a better selection – if it’s what they want, they’ll buy it.”