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Retailers forced to discount as wet weather persists

Shoppers are being offered record discounts on the high street as desperate retailers slash prices to clear stock after one of the wettest summers ever.

Dozens of high street chains including Debenhams, French Connection and Warehouse have cut prices of dresses, bikinis and summer clothes by up to 70 per cent, equivalent to savings of around £300million.

Over the weekend nine out of 10 clothing chains were on ‘sale’ and offering average discounts of 55 per cent, the highest ever price cuts for a July, according to accountants PwC.

Marks & Spencer is offering 20 per cent off all swimsuits, while DIY chain B&Q has cut the price of many barbecues by a third.

The wettest June on record - followed by continuing bad weather - has led to a dramatic slump in the number of people shopping.

Figures from Experian Footfall show that the number of people out on the high streets fell by 16 per cent on Thursday June 28, the month’s wettest day, compared to the previous year.

Overall, the number of people shopping in June dropped by 1.6 per cent compared to 2011, Experian said. Other companies have said shopper numbers fell by as much as 5 per cent.

Shops are being forced to “savagely” cut prices of unsold summer stock to avoid a “car crash” when new autumn-winter ranges come in at the end of July, according to Stephen Robertson, the director-general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The chief executive of one large fashion retailer said: “It is really miserable. In my 14 years in fashion retail I have not seen discounts this big at this time of year.”

A second high street boss said: “We have had nine months of the wrong weather. Winter was summer and summer was winter. There is no feel-good factor at all.”

Figures released today by accountants BDO will show that clothing sales grew by just 0.5 per cent in June, the worst performance since 2009 when Britain was in the grip of the credit crisis.

According to the Met Office, total rainfall in June was 145.3mm, more than twice the amount normally expected in the month.

Bargain-hunters were out in force over the weekend.

Lorna Kinsman, 40, was stocking up on cheap clothes at the Cribbs Causeway shopping centre in Bristol.

“With these prices, why not? The sales are fantastic. It is really uplifting to get a good bargain, especially when money is as tight as it is," she said.

Shana Bellini, 25, said: "These sales are great, I couldn't believe how cheap everything was.”

The BRC’s Mr Robertson said: “It has rained all the time during spring-summer and there is too much stock out there. Retailers are very unhappy with inventory levels and they are having to savagely cut prices.

“We hoped the Jubilee and the European football would catch the mood of the nation and make us more confident but that doesn’t seem to have happened.”

Retailers saw a strong start to the summer season due to warm weather in March. However since then the bad weather has put shoppers off.

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said that is it “horrible” on the high street.

“Everybody thought it was happy days back in March and that is now a complete distant memory,” she said.

Richard Hyman, an expert in retail and strategic advisor at Deliotte, said that the bad weather has been a “body blow” to retailers.

Source : James Hall – The Telegraph

09 July 2012
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