As the buying season kicks off for autumn 16, retailers including Debenhams and Fat Face have revealed they will continue to cut back on orders for heavy knitwear and outerwear to reduce discounting pre and post Christmas.
December in the UK was the wettest and warmest on record with temperatures averaging 7.9C, with the result being an onslaught of pre-Christmas discounting on the high street as retailers struggled to shift excess stock.
However Fat Face, which had its biggest-ever week of sales running up to Christmas hitting £11.2m, up from the previous record of £10m, combatted the issue by changing its buying pattern to ensure tighter stock levels, a strategy it will re-apply for coming seasons.
Anthony Thompson, chief executive of Fat Face, declined to give details on the size of the reduction but said: “Retailers have to buy less stock. Given the level of discounting on the high street, too many are buying too much. If you want to keep full price you have to reduce your buy - that’s what we have done and we had less stock in Sale on Boxing Day because we bought tighter.”
Thompson said he also changed the mix of goods available, adding lighter-weight knits and outerwear, to ensure product was suitable whatever the weather.
“Over the last few years we have introduced different weights of yarn and outerwear so shoppers can layer them. You have to ensure you have the right product mix regardless of the weather.”
The managing director of one footwear multiple added: “We will definitely be buying less for next autumn. It has been a tricky year for retail so I think most businesses will be more guarded with budgets because there was such a big markdown on prices across the board this season.”
Debenhams said a reduction in discounting saw full price sales edge up 5% during Christmas week. Chief executive Michael Sharp put this down to a smaller buy and less reliance on seasonal clothing sales. “Over the last few years the weather has been unseasonal and we have learned lessons from that. We reduced our stock numbers across clothing and outerwear in particular to make us more resilient [to this].”
In addition to reducing its buy for autumn 16, Debenhams said it will continue to increase the mix of non-clothing products such as accessories, bags and shoes, and bring in a wider range of knitwear for layering.