Unseasonably high temperatures and slow sales have caused multiple retailers to kick off the autumn season with widespread “panic” discounting.
Following the driest September since records began in 1910, a raft of high street chains are holding Sales of autumn 14 stock in store and online as Drapers went to press.
House of Fraser, Dorothy Perkins and F&F had 50% off the new collections, Miss Selfridge had a 70% off promotion, New Look was offering 60% off selected lines and H&M had 20% off denim online and 10% off any other online purchases.
Debenhams’ half-price womenswear Sale started on October 2, after the chain offered 25% off new-season product across all departments last week.
Charles Clinkard, owner of footwear retailer Clinkards, said sales were down by between 20% and 25% over the past two weeks and had been further hampered by department store discounting. “The summer is dragging on and ladies are not buying new boots. We’re in trouble when the big boys start panic discounting. Debenhams is at it and John Lewis has a price match so that doesn’t help. It’s a weather-driven business and it’s not working in our favour at the moment.”
Heavyweights including Next and John Lewis have been hit by sales slumps during the warm autumn. Next said sales for the third quarter to date are running below expectations because of the “unseasonably warm weather”. Sales were up 6% year on year, lower than the predicted 10% increase.
Next has warned that if the unseasonable weather continues in October, it may have to lower its full-year profit guidance, which is currently £775m to £815m.
Fashion sales at John Lewis fell 6.9% in the week ending September 20, the most up-to-date figures available, as the mild weather delayed the purchase of outerwear and knitwear.
However, John Lewis managing director Andy Street said this was “just a blip” and the business has “just got to hold its nerve” and stay focused on its omnichannel approach.
Street told Drapers: “If the weather changes shortly all will be well, as there will be pent-up demand [for autumn stock]. We all know this Indian summer is particularly challenging for retailers. I’m not remotely worried long term.”
Jigsaw chief executive Peter Ruis said the small drop in morning temperatures this week had already had an effect. “The strange weather caused womenswear to suffer in particular, and sales of knitwear and coats fell off a cliff. But as the colder mornings began to set in, it picked up and last week’s sales should be up 20% year on year.”
Another chief executive of a premium retailer said online sales were “much less affected by the weather”, adding that it had increased the number of transitional products in lighter-weight materials available this season and that had been “very successful”.
A Met Office spokeswoman said the weather would change from Thursday this week with low pressure beginning to move across the UK, bringing more unsettled, showery weather and cooler temperatures. Temperatures are expected to drop to an average of 13C during the month, the average for this time of year.