Shoppers on a bargain hunt as sales start early

Shoppers on a bargain hunt as sales start early

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LINGERING good weather has prompted pre-Christmas sales at retailers all over York.

Retail sales continued to fall in November despite major discounting on the high street, a monthly survey said today.

Mid-tier retailers saw like-for-like sales fall 1.7 per cent last month, BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker said, as unseasonably warm weather hit fashion sales, which dropped one per cent.

Non-fashion slumped 3.1 per cent and homeware was down 2.6 per cent. BDO said the drop in sales came despite heavy promotion activity to pull in cash-strapped consumers, and is expected to hit
profit margins.

High street shops in York are offering sales of 50 per cent in many instances, with an emphasis on warm clothing.

Sarah Cordey, a spokeswoman for the British Retail Consortium, said the promotions mirrored the scramble for customers that had been happening all year.

“People have less disposable income and confidence is down, so they are reluctant to go shopping for things they don’t consider immediate needs, so retailers are pulling out the stops. Clothing
sales and footwear have had a particularly tough couple of months because the warm weather means people aren’t inclined to buy winter ranges yet.”

Frank Wood, York Retail Forum chairman and owner of Braithwaite’s Jewellers in Goodramgate, said the big stores tended to wait as long as they could before starting pre-Christmas sales, and he
didnot think they had started earlier than usual. He was hopeful this year would be better than last, when footfall fell by 300,000 people because of the heavy snow. “It was a nightmare,” he said
but felt that City of York Council’s decision to make car parking free on Boxing Day would attract more people to the city after Christmas.

Sally Gilbank, marketing manager at York Designer Outlet, said general clothing retailers had not suffered in the centre, because the nature of the outlet was that items were discounted all year.
But she said outdoor clothing retailers had been hit by the warm weather.

“Their sales have started picking up now we’re having more wintry weather over the last week or so. Sales are strong in categories like perfumes and cosmetics and entertainment, which indicates
people have started buying gifts for Christmas from the second week in November.”

Andrew Coticelli, director for consumer business for advisory firm Deloitte in Yorkshire, forecast a flat Christmas. He warned some retailers would struggle to pay quarterly rent bills at the end
of December, but the real crunch would come at the end of March 2012 because the firm did not expect sales to grow until 2013 as the squeeze on disposable income takes effect.

• Selby retailers are cautiously optimistic about sales in the crucial run-up to Christmas.

Richard Schofield, town centre representative of Selby Chamber of Commerce and owner of Heaven And Home gift shop in Gowthorpe, said so far his sales were 27 per cent up on last year and attributed
the rise to the warm weather, compared with last year’s snow that kept many shoppers at home.

“The next three weeks will be crucial, but I am cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We have had a tough year, but people do like to push the boat out at Christmas. The last thing to go is holidays
and presents.” Selby people have been preparing for bad weather, with snow shovels being among shoppers’ choices.

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