Your browser is no longer supported. For the best experience of this website, please upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Retailers struggle to resist compulsion to discount

Retailers are beginning to wake up to the dangers of too much blanket discounting, but tough trading conditions on the high street in the first half of 2016 have forced many into early end-of-season Sales.

As Drapers’ exclusive survey of more than 300 retailers and brands shows, businesses are struggling to resist the temptation to cut prices.

Dorothy Perkins, Topman, Tessuti, Karen Millen, LK Bennett and Dune are among those advertising Sales online and/or in stores this week, at markdowns of 20% to 60%.

“It feels like some of the big retailers have gone on Sale earlier this year,” said Fergus Patterson, managing director of Gant UK and Ireland.

“We started on Thursday [June 16], which is the same time we did last year, but some started last week or even the week before.

“We looked at going earlier but although it might add a bit in the short term, we need to be consistent for the sake of the brand. What makes you feel it a bit more is that there were quite a few retailers holding mid-season Sales in March, so it feels like there has been a prolonged Sales period.”

Manuela Carniello, retail consultant at Taking Shape Australia, agreed: “I think people are trying to hold off, but the sales still started quite early again this season. By June 9 pretty much everyone was on sale.

“Unfortunately, the sale activities can be so aggressive that when few retailers start to discount the other retailers will end up following.”

Retail analyst Richard Hyman, who monitors the discounting activity of 240 retailers across varying sectors, said around half (52%) of fashion chains and etailers are currently on Sale.

However, he noted that this has been a trend since the beginning of the year: “The last time it was below 50% was in the first week of November, when it was 49%.

“The first half of this calendar year has been the toughest six months we’ve ever seen. If someone told me it was materially less promotional, I wouldn’t believe them. I think it’s at least as promotional, if not more so – mainly unplanned promotions, or those driven by the guy next door.”

Anthony Thompson, chief executive of Fat Face, said: “I don’t think there’s been so much blanket discounting over the past few weeks, I think the weather has lifted business – it certainly has for us – and that takes away the panic. But I don’t think [discounting] is significantly reducing.

“There’s no question it’s been a difficult year: we’ve had to promote certain lines we’d rather not. We aim to be a full-price business but it’s extremely challenging when all around you are discounting.”

But he added: “I think people are waking up to the fact discounting is an issue.”

Chris O’Dea, founder of menswear independent OD’s in St Helen’s, said: “Gone are the days here you can stick to your guns. We’re here to earn money. You’ve got to move with what’s going on, you can’t just stick your head in the sand and say we’re not going on Sale, you’d lose business.

“We feel as if everyone’s gone on Sale early this season.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Going on sale is for fools. It doesn't make any positive difference and just shows that the people pulling the strings in the industry are essentially business failures.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • darren hoggett

    Completely disagree with O'Dea's comments. The 'we're going on sale because everybody else does' doesn't wash. If a business feels it is 'losing out' by not going on sale, then that does ask questions about that business itself. If customers are only coming to a store because it is purely price driven, that would concern me if I were that owner.

    Our sales actually increase while most other stores are on sale, because we attract extra customers because and I quote - 'We sick of going round everywhere and seeing sale crap'.

    So therefore by NOT going on sale, you increase sales and without losing margin. Stores that are affected by Sale period really need to have a hard look at themselves because they're doing one or a number of things wrong as the culture is counter productive.

    In our experience, the Sale argument is bogus.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.