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News - 22 November 2008

Pre-Christmas sales – a clever strategy or a sign of desperation?

Months of doom and gloom mongering has not had a great impact so far on shopping habits. Footfall has maintained a reasonably healthy level and in Brighton it has been growing steadily in spite of the bleak headlines.

However, what is not clear is how much those shoppers are actually spending. Shopping is after all a popular pastime in its own right. Spending a lot of money doesn't need to be a part of it and there doesn't need to be a need driving it.

However, a turn of events has been detected. People are becoming more frugal and a little less reckless with their credit cards. They are also out looking for bargains and money saving options.

Retailers are picking up on this. They have recognised that people still want to shop and will go to the discount and factory shops rather than quit the habit altogether.

Consequently a number of leading high street retailers are launching sales and promotions just a month before Christmas. Under normal circumstances this would be considered commercial suicide ...but these are not normal circumstances – far from it. The goal posts on all established convention have been moved.

Marks & Spencer set the ball rolling with a 20% discount on everything except food and BHS and Debenhams quickly followed suit with pre-Christmas sales.

This looks like an attempt to lure back customers who have switched their loyalty to down market stores and discounters.

This really doesn't auger well for the industry as a whole and independent stores will struggle to compete if there is a landslide copycat reaction from other high street multiples.


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