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Sun brings out shoppers as early Easter prompts Sales

The sunshine has lured shoppers into stores this week as high street multiples are forced to go on Sale to clear stock before this year's early Easter.

New Look, Monsoon, Debenhams, Warehouse, Principles and Arcadia's fascias are among those that have already gone on Sale to clear space for their next phase of spring stock.

One managing director of a major chain said the company's early markdowns were not an indication of panic, adding that difficult trading in 2006 meant it actually went on Sale two weeks earlier than this year.

As temperatures in the UK peaked at 19 degsC in Norwich on Monday, one financial director of a small multiple said he had seen an uplift in the past week compared with last year.

A department store source said she had also seen a "fantastic upturn" since the weekend. "We're up double figures on last year and last week," she said. "It's looking much more positive out there. However, there is a lot of discounting about and certain retailers are very keen to get rid of product before Easter."

Richard Fitzpatrick, managing director of consultancy Retailmap, said that the early Easter - April 8 rather than last year's April 16 - demanded that retailers took early action. "Normally after Christmas, retailers like to have transitional ranges in for four to six weeks, then they launch spring collections for the same amount of time," he said. "They are no doubt concerned that they don't have as much time as they usually would."

Debenhams held mega-day Sales on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with 25% off in its stores. However, chief operating officer Michael Sharp said these were not indicative of trading and had been in the calendar since last year.

Value retailer QS has resisted going on Sale this week, but chief executive Findlay Caldwell said the chain would hold a mid-season Sale before Easter. "Stock will be reduced by 50% and the Sale will last two weeks," he said.

Marks & Spencer is understood to be holding off until May, significantly later than last year's Sale, which kicked off in early April. M&S refused to comment.

Michael Ziff, chairman of Stylo, which owns Barratts, PriceLess Shoes and Shellys, said the warm weather was providing a good indication of summer's product winners. But he said like-for-like growth was tough to achieve because snow this time last year meant higher-priced boots were still selling.

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