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Shoppers are still stuck in Sale mode

Lauretta Roberts

We’d better hope the sun returns this weekend as it will be the last chance many retailers get to shift large volumes of spring stock at full price.

Broadly in line with last year’s timing, the big department stores are gearing up to go on Sale next week, which as ever poses a challenge for indies selling similar brands and who want to retain full margins for as long as possible.

There has been a fair bit of promotional activity already. Some large stores have staged Sale previews for loyal customers, offering the opportunity to buy stock at discounted prices before the Sale proper starts. But the true extent of the discounting will become clear when the likes of Debenhams and House of Fraser play their hands in the middle of next week.

Many high street chains have also been discounting in a low-key manner throughout the season. Several are offering ‘mid-season’ discounts at the moment, the terminology of which makes me smile since we can only be a week or two away from a full-blown ‘end-of-season’ Sale.

Rumours are abounding already about Christmas Sale activity, with industry watchers suggesting that retailers will hold their nerve and their prices this year until the festive trading period is over, unlike last year’s much-maligned early discounts and promotions.

Consumers, they say, need to be reaccustomed to the idea of paying full price for merchandise in season (though many brands and retailers are adjusting price architectures to offer more lower-priced product) and to only expect Sales at the end of a season. It would be nice, but we’re some way from that situation yet.

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