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House of Fraser ramps up discounts in ‘complete strategy shift’

House of Fraser has adopted an “aggressive” price-changing strategy online since the start of spring, bringing its promotional activity in line with serial discounter Debenhams.

Figures compiled by data analyst Cogenta show a “significant” increase in price-changing activity on the department store’s website, beginning in the middle of the first quarter of this year and continuing to the end of the second quarter.

Across more than 70,000 fashion items, HoF went from changing prices on 1.18% of its range on a daily basis during the first three months of 2013 to 5.63% between April 1 to June 30. According to Cogenta, this is the biggest single spike among the top 50 fashion retailers in the UK and brings HoF more in line with rival department store Debenhams.

Debenhams itself doubled the frequency of its online price changes, but HoF’s fivefold increase was described by one retail expert, who asked to remain anonymous, as “a real step change”.

Marc Clifton, commercial operations manager at Cogenta, said: “It stands out because HoF has never gone that aggressive in the last 18 months. It looks like a complete shift, turning from a normal strategy to something that is trying to rival Debenhams in scope.

“It’s most likely that Debenhams is still leading the way, but the fact that HoF is having to follow when it hasn’t done so before speaks volumes. No other retailer, in any of the categories, has had the same level of increase in activity.”

No one from HoF was available for comment, but in its most recent financial report for the three months to April 27, 2013, the business said its online sales had surged 62%.

However, at the time independent analyst Nick Bubb noted that the online strategy was “not doing anything for profits”.

Cogenta has also identified the sector’s biggest discounters in the three months to June 30, with the top three retailers all part of Arcadia.

Miss Selfridge was offering the deepest discounts at the end of June, with a sample of more than 600 products reduced in price by an average of 32.95% compared with the start of the second quarter.

Evans and Dorothy Perkins came next with items down 29.67% and 26.77% respectively.

HoF was the ninth deepest discounter, with its average product costing 15.7% less at the end of the period. Debenhams came tenth, with an average reduction of 15.65%.

Readers' comments (1)

  • HOF are going in the wrong direction if they think discounting is the answer as they will put existing brands off and will struggle to attract new ones. They are clearly doing something wrong. It should be remembered that the discounts that HOF already get from their suppliers are heavily stacked in the stores favour and more discounting isn't going to win them any friends.

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