Retail: All to play for as Christmas fast approaches

14 December 2012

This week, PwC found that 69% of 100 high street retailers were on sale or advertising promotions in their shop window, such as 3 for 2. This compares to 66% last year, 55% in 2010, 63% in 2009 but not quite the level seen in 2008 (80%).

Average price discounts being advertised this week were 36%, compared to 45% last year.

Compared to this time last week, advertised promotions are up 5% while average price discounts have remained level.

Andy Lyon , retail partner  at PwC in the Midlands, said:

“The dramatic advance in tablet and smartphone ownership and usage, especially away from home, is making it much more difficult to predict when, where and how customers will be shopping this Christmas. There is a huge array of information on customer attitudes and behaviour available but without comparable history it is tough to predict future trends - especially with an extra weekend for shopping this year.

“This year will see a fascinating combination of analysis and real retail instinct being played out at Monday's retailer trading meetings - with critical decisions being made that can make or break a year's financial performance. The number of retailers running promotions suggests that there is now a base level of activity which is seen as necessary to be ‘in the game’ - however for now the depth of discounting may reflect retailers keeping their powder dry.

“Expect the unexpected next week - both in-store and online - as the fight for the Christmas spending will go down to the wire."

Christine Cross, chief retail adviser to PwC, said:

“It’s interesting that the average price discounts in store are lower this year, even though more retailers are advertising reductions. This could be that more cut price sales are going through the web channel, and that those retailers managing their stock well are happy to hold onto winter coats and boots just a little longer as we experience the first real cold spell this winter.

“Many retailers are also facing the dilemma of when to start the real discounting. Some are planning to go live online from 23 December whereas others are loading until the shops close on Christmas Eve and launching the web sale then, with in store sales starting at the crack of dawn on Boxing Day.

“Either way for consumers the last weekend before Christmas may well be one to pick up bargains this year."

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