Tough trading has continued on the high street as shoppers are yet to embrace new-season spring collections, retail bosses said this week.
rainy high street
Footfall on UK high streets fell 2.4% year on year for the week to 17 February, Springboard data showed, and retailers have struggled to entice “cautious” shoppers to spend.
“It has been more challenging this year – footfall is definitely down,” said Debbie Hewitt, chairman of Moss Bros and White Stuff. “The customer is more discerning, so you’ve got to have the right product. It’s very noticeable that people are coming out to shop less. People are being more cautious and thoughtful about discretionary spend.”
The owner of several retail fashion businesses agreed that trade has been disappointing so far this year: “We had an OK January. In the first week of February we were up on the year, but were still hoping for a higher rate of return.
“We’re seeing certain parts of the business growing, certain parts stagnant, and there’s a clear direction in what the customer wants to buy – they want to buy something new, something fashionable, and then they move on.”
The development director at one fast fashion retailer said its speed to market had been its saving grace: “January was slightly better than last year, but we’ve seen figures from other brands and partners we work with, and they’re finding it tough at the moment.
“It comes down to our fast fashion model, being able to turn around stock quickly and get on the right trends.”
The chief executive of one womenswear retailer said the colder weather – particularly in northern parts of the UK – had stunted sales of new-season spring stock: “It’s particularly tough at the moment. The last couple of weeks have knocked the customer’s desire to go out shopping and buy something new. A ‘buy now, wear now’ culture is where we’ve ended up, so a cold snap such as this is really challenging.”
Peter Ruis, CEO OF Jigsaw – which enjoyed a 13% increase in sales year on year for the week ending 18 February – agreed that retailers need to work harder to get shoppers to spend: “We’ve had to adapt and make customers feel like it is time to go shopping again.
“We’ve been working very hard on our price points and ranges, we’ve gone back to old-school buying and merchandising of products.”