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Wet summer fails to sink stores’ Sale plans

Working harder on stock and buying strategies pays off for retailers as Sale dates stay in line with last year

Tighter stock control, smarter buying and transitional product are helping retailers to weather the disappointing summer, which has included three of the wettest months on record, but few anticipate the London Olympics will have a major impact on sales.

Both multiples and indies say Sales have begun “in line” with last year, with many able to hold off starting for up to a week. Whistles chief executive Jane Shepherdson said the womenswear chain went on Sale on June 20, a week later than last year. “We’ve done a lot of work on the product but we’ve never been that dependent on high summer. Our dresses will have a sleeve and we have the jackets.”

Trousers have been a key seller for Whistles this season and Shepherdson added that denim had “kept us going”, with coloured and animal-print jeans selling well.

Andy Rogers, brand director at premium retailer Reiss, said its Sale was going well, and that it had combatted the disappointing weather with transitional product. “Our trans-seasonal package is strong as we have seen that the summer has been getting later and later,” he said.

At department store chain House of Fraser, tighter stock control meant it was also able to go on Sale a week later than last year. Chairman Don McCarthy said: “We have controlled stock well and don’t have an embarrassing amount of product to go on Sale.”

Warehouse managing director Meg Lustman said it had changed its June trading strategy to reflect current consumer attitudes of “buy now, wear now”. She added: “Where the weather has been nice, summery products have sold well; when it rains we sell more knitwear and outerwear.”

The shift towards product that can appeal during unpredictable weather has also changed the buying strategy at indies. Janine O’Keefe, owner of contemporary womenswear indie Okeefe in Esher, Surrey, said: “The good thing is that the new season stock is fairly transitional so even if the weather picks up there will still be lots of choice in terms of colour and styles. It is important to have transitional product because the weather is so unpredictable.”

Meanwhile, many retailers are planning to come out of Sale and bring in new season stock before the Olympics on July 27, but few expect to see a significant sales uplift from the Games.

McCarthy said the chain would “trade like normal” but did not expect it to be “beneficial nor negative”.

However, Reiss’s Rogers believes the extra tourists cannot fail to offer a boost to Sales. He said: “Anyone who is anti-Olympics and is playing it down is wrong. There are an anticipated 7 million people coming to the capital and not all of those are going to be here simply to watch the Games. They will want to be enjoying London and shopping as well.”

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