Suppliers to high street multiples and department stores have warned of another difficult month of trading ahead, following a “terrible” October.
Unseasonably warm weather, Brexit concerns and a drop-off in sales ahead of Black Friday as consumers wait for discounts, have all been blamed for a fall in sales on the high street and many are concerned the trend will continue into the crucial Christmas period.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said October was a “meagre month” as the BRC and KPMG’s Retail Sales Monitor revealed October UK like-for-like retail sales dropped by 1% compared with 2016, and non-food in-store retail sales in the 12 months to end of October showed a decline of 2.1% – the lowest since the index began in 2012.
A supplier to high street multiples said: “It was a bad October and November is going to be terrible. Some of the big guys are down by over a third on key categories compared with last year.
“They need to get back to quality. Shoppers are starting to feel the squeeze and they are nervous. They won’t part with their money unless the product is special. The choice out there is boring and the middle market is struggling.”
One menswear supplier agreed: “Christmas will give us a feel of how people are spending but personally, I don’t think it will be as good as it has been, as people won’t spend much.”
He added that Brexit “apprehension” was causing a squeeze: “People in the know are concerned by exchange rates. Every retailer is hitting us on price and they are getting tougher and tougher on price points because of loss of margin.”
Several suppliers hoped the recent cold snap will remain: “It has been a tough few weeks on the high street but retailers are relieved the weather has turned cooler,” said one.
Another added that “two or three weeks” of cold weather would “change the marketplace”.
The chief executive of one off-price etailer said shoppers waiting for Black Friday deals was dampening sales on the high street: “Black Friday is a problem as shoppers hold off then return most of their purchases the following week. It has been unbelievably tough out there on the high street. Some big multiples are down 10% on last year.”