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Survey reveals extent of high street’s Sale frenzy

More than a third of product on shop floors is discounted, with kidswear and womenswear leading the way

Discounted product occupied more than a third of all high street retail space during July, as retailers were forced to slash prices to shift summer stock after wet weather dampened demand, according to a detailed survey of 23 high street fashion retailers.

Kidswear and womenswear saw the largest increase in the percentage of floor space on promotion, up 6.7% to 25.4% and 5.8% to 32.7% respectively compared with the same period last year. In contrast, the proportion of discounts across menswear fell 8.9%.

The research, compiled by research agency Retailmap, was based on weekly studies of the discounts offered in retailers including Marks & Spencer, Primark, River Island, Topshop, New Look, Zara and John Lewis.

The results reinforce the widely held view that the UK high street has had a particularly tough time in the past few months as a result of the persistent rain in May, June and July. According to Retailmap, the overall percentage of total floor space on promotion in July this year, across the 23 retailers surveyed, stood at 37.4%, up 11% compared with July last year.

Accountancy firm PwC said it saw the highest level of discounting ever for July, with nine out of 10 retailers holding Sales over the weekend of July 7 and 8, offering an average discount of 55%.

Earlier this month, French Connection warned that first-half operating profits would be £7m lower than last year as it resorted to additional discounting to shift stock.

Brian Brick, chief executive of menswear retailer Moss Bros, said it was no surprise that womenswear and kidswear had discounted significantly more than menswear.

Highlighting the stability of the menswear market over the past year, Brick said the chain had been able to keep its level of discounting consistent with the previous year.

French Connection marketing director William Woodhams agreed: “Menswear is a slightly more stable market. Men are less fickle and are not looking for a killer bargain like women are,” he said.

Verdict lead retail analyst Sarah Peters said: “Menswear is a little bit less seasonal than womenswear. Men will wear T-shirts and similar items all year round, whatever the weather.”

Peters too said that over the past 12 to 18 months there had been a shift in how men dress, which in turn has led to increased sales in the menswear market. “We’re seeing a lot more trend-led items as men are getting more fashionable,” she said. “Men are updating their wardrobes and so spending a little more.”

Away from the menswear and womenswear split, while the percentage of retail space on promotion increased in June and July 2012 compared with the year before, the depth of discounting reduced.

The depth of discounting in June stood at 32% this year, down from last year’s 34.6% figure, demonstrating that while retailers are dedicating more of their floor space to promotions, they are attempting to better maintain their margins on the products they are choosing to put into Sale.

However, one kidswear indie told Drapers this was not her strategy, as she struggled to compete with promotions being offered on the high street.

“We went straight in full whack at 40%,” said Charlotte Wilkie, co-owner of kidswear indie Charlie Barley in Brighton.

“I wanted to make sure stock had gone before autumn; I didn’t want to be stuck with it.”

Sales on the high street

Sales on the high street

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thierry BAYLE

    Charlie comment : “I wanted to make sure stock had gone before autumn; I didn’t want to be stuck with it.” And she is right. The sooner you act, the lesser the discounts you will need to give away. Of course, some retailers may be able to afford keeping goods and delaying discounting however does it make real economic sense?
    Working on the Open To Buy plan with our clients, one number which also needs to be look at ( a real number to track regularly ) is the markdown percentage. Are we giving more or less discounts over a given period?
    The bigger space dedicated to discounted goods may reflect a higher amount of discounts in Pounds but not necessarily.
    Are every retailers tracking this number per product class?
    Unfortunately not.
    Then it is about taking action on how to improve the buying and taking action every 2/4 weeks (for an independent) when actual sales do not meet the initial sales forcast - ie you are starting to be overstocked and what are you going to do about it.
    Thierry - Management One
    www.globalfashionmanagement.com

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