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Sale-weary shoppers snap up autumn stock

Boost for womenswear retailers as fresh trends generate high street spending 

Pleats, rich colours and structured shift dresses are driving demand for autumn 11 womenswear after the wet July weather and Sales fatigue sparked consumer appetite for new- season trends.

The arrival of autumn stock is providing retailers with a much-needed boost, as this year’s early Sales mean many consumers are already bored with summer trends.

The interest in new stock shows consumers are still willing to spend if products are fresh and different.

This is also backed up by the BDO High Street Sales Tracker, which showed overall fashion sales were up 3.2% for the week to July 24, with clothing up 2.4% and footwear up 7.9%.

Retailers are reporting that although summer Sales are broadly in line with last year’s performance, they have led to a rise in footfall, and that once out on the high street many consumers are being tempted by full-priced autumn product.

Maureen Hinton, retail analyst at Verdict Research, said: “Retailers are cautious so have kept stocks as tight as possible and gone for a short, sharp Sale period to clear in time for transitional ranges. The latter are doing well because they are just that – transitional – so are suitable for the erratic climate we have at the moment.”

Jane McNally, chief executive of womenswear retailer Alexon Group, said: “The Sale was a bit disappointing as it started early and ran out of momentum a little earlier. There are so many bargains out there that consumers have got Sales fatigue.”

But McNally added that autumn sales were “well up” on the previous year, with 1960s and 1970s-inspired clothing doing particularly well, as well as lace and shift dresses, smarter, boxy Chanel-style jackets and wide-leg trousers.

A spokeswoman for Marks and Spencer said it had also seen strong demand for soft pleats and richer colours, with a transitional dress that went into its Autograph collection a standout piece.

Ty Edwards, retail director for womenswear chain Kookaï in the UK and Republic of Ireland, said it had “not done bad against last year” over the Sale period. He added: “The weather has not helped and there have been difficulties, but in the past few weeks as we’ve got further into Sale we are a little bit above last year.”

Kookaï is poised to kick-start its autumn offer in earnest but, from the new stock that has gone out, a trench coat and tropical maxi dress have sold well. Edwards said: “We’re launching autumn with a festival theme so maxi dresses will be big. Folk and the 1970s will be key looks throughout.” 

Premium chain Reiss was able to hold off its Sale because of an impressive spring season. It saw strong demand for footwear both online and in store. European retail director Claire Arksey added: “Needless to say we’ve had extra foot traffic from Kate Middleton wearing the brand. She’s had a big effect on the sale of dresses, tailoring and skirts.”

Lifestyle brand Joules has also seen strong interest in traditional British heritage looks and expects this to continue into autumn.

Founder Tom Joule said: “We are expecting our tweeds to be as strong as ever, as well as heritage pieces such as intarsia knits and feather and down layers. Jersey dresses and faux-fur accessories are proving strong performers for womenswear while knits and blazers are also doing well for menswear.”

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