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Start writing that Christmas to-do list now

I am writing this on a bright and sunny August morning and uppermost in my mind is the retailing expectation for Christmas.

There is a little over 17 weeks to go until this spending jamboree, which translates to about 125 trading days if you open seven days a week, or about 108 if you manage to close on Sundays. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?

Consider how things used to be when the festive season was a fairly reliable bet to provide a huge slice of a retailer’s annual takings. A crescendo of several weeks of full-price selling reached a climax on Christmas Eve, to be followed by a clear-out of redundant stock in what was appropriately called the January Sales. In the words of The Way We Were, “Can it be that it was all so simple then?” Probably not, but hindsight usually is viewed through rose-coloured specs.

The reality of life now is that, yes, the Christmas period is still very important for most retailers - and literally make or break for some strugglers - but it is unpredictable, somewhat unreliable and certainly not a festival of full-price selling any longer.

That ideal situation really is the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Further to our report this week, the calendar this year - which sees Christmas Day falling on a Wednesday - may give retailers more issues to consider than usual. Will there be a last-minute rush on Christmas Eve, or will the weekend of December 21 and 22 be the hectic period that will take the pressure off the final day? Of course, for anyone who works outside retail, the Monday and Tuesday, December 23 and 24, are attractive days with which to mop up any outstanding holidays. Whether people choose to go shopping or find other ways to pass the time is an unknown at present. I have a sneaking suspicion that more folk than usual will choose to go abroad for what our

American friends call the Holiday Season, which again will have an impact on trading on the high street and online.

The overriding factor, predictably enough, will be the weather - and I’m not foolish enough to offer any suggestion of what the climate might be doing in four months’ time.

Readers’ comments and observations on the prospects for Christmas and what brands and retailers can and cannot do to maximise the possibilities for business this year are most welcome online or through the time-honoured letter to the editor.

On the subject of readers’ opinions online, I’ve been a little dismayed since I returned seven weeks ago by the tone and content of some of the comments on Drapersonline.com, especially those that choose to hide behind the ‘Anonymous’ tag. I think this is a misuse of the Anonymous facility, which is designed to offer protection to someone who is, for example, whistle-blowing or writing about something that is personally sensitive.

We can see the email address of every comment we receive and many of the most ill-considered rants come from the company we have written about. I am all for free speech, but I will be taking a harder line against readers who are offensive or aggressive in their comment and have not got the honesty to put their own name to it.

A good point can be made without ranting.

Too often a company declines to talk to Drapers on or off the record, and then complains that we have got the story wrong when it appears in print or online. We exist to bring news to the industry and we are all responsible adults here, so I would respectfully urge readers to talk to us rather than ignoring us then complaining about the outcome.

I hope you enjoy and approve of the changes we are making to Drapers on a weekly basis. Like a good fashion retailer, we have to keep remerchandising and refreshing our offer. Do let us know what you think, but please, not anonymously.

Finally, I was pleased that Kate Bostock has made a sooner-than-expected return to the fashion fray as chief executive of Coast (a business, incidentally, that shares a building with Drapers). For me, Kate is one of the most genuine people in the industry, so this should be good for her and good for Coast.

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