Fashion retailers are reporting a healthy summer performance, with warm weather and improved sentiment tempting consumers to buy more at full price.
Figures published this week by the British Retail Consortium/KPMG show clothing was the best performing retail sector, followed by footwear. Total sales were up 0.6% across all categories, while like-for-likes were down 0.8%.
BRC head of business information Richard Lim said: “[During the course of surveying retailers] we heard that because there was good weather and strong demand, a lot of retailers delayed summer Sales, so when they got to Sale season, they had less stock to clear. Instead of widespread discounts across lots of different lines, there were deeper discounts on more specific stock.”
Lim said it suggested improved consumer sentiment thanks to better economic prospects and house prices, while the weather meant it was “no surprise that consumers are picking things up at full price”.
Retailers concurred. Sue Chidler, marketing director of Cath Kidson, said the retailer’s summer Sale would be a week shorter than last year thanks to demand for full price stock.
“As soon as we introduce new dresses they sell out immediately. We have put fewer lines into Sale than last year but we have discounted at the same level – 30% to 50%,” she said.”Our autumn range is already selling well and we expect to be out of Sale by the end of July.”
Dune chairman Daniel Rubin agreed. “Our strategy has been to have shorter, sharper Sales so we can maximise full price and improve margins after the first two weeks of the Sale,” he said. “This is about managing the stock more tightly but it is also about buying better.” Dune is running a Sale with discounts of up to 50% [when will Sale start/end?].
Clerys department store in Dublin has also improved margins by having a “more focused buying strategy this year” following a revamp of its O’Connell Street store in November, according to concessions director Sue Dunn.
Debenhams started its summer Sale two weeks later this year, on June 22 compared with June 9 in 2013. A spokeswoman said: “Our customers like our promotions, they are a traditional strength of Debenhams… We said at half year results in April that promotions will remain a key part of our strategy but we are focusing on more clearly defined promotional periods.”
Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick agreed customers were picking up the autumn collection, spurring the chain to move old stock out as soon as possible. It is currently running a Sale with discounts of up to 70%. “Our Sale strategy is similar to last year. We’re discounting fewer products and going deeper,” he added.
However, Lim said it was still difficult to say whether the sector was finally out of the woods. Although the Consumer Price Index suggested clothing and footwear prices were rising – with a 0.6% rate of inflation – Lim warned this index was taken from one day in a month and could miss flash Sales.
Most recent BRC figures said year-on-year clothing prices fell 11.4% in May.
s He added any potential rise in interest rates this year would “obviously have an impact”.