James Thompson: On the high street, bad weather helps sort out the weak from the strong

Business View

Sir Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, was famously made to eat his words when a sustained deluge followed his comment "weather is for wimps" in 2007. This is not a phrase that Marc Bolland, the current boss of M&S, will use today when he unveils what are expected to be the retail chain's weakest underlying UK sales for three years, dragged down by lacklustre womenswear trading over the 13 weeks to 30 June.

Mr Bolland would be on safe ground to blame the wettest April and June on record for dire sales of T-shirts, dresses and bikinis – echoing complaints by DIY retailers selling garden furniture and barbecues.

Yet the overall impact of the unseasonably wet weather on the retail sector has been far more nuanced than some would suggest. Just as there are some tents built to cope with monsoon-type conditions, while others start to leak water at the first sign of heavy rain, some parts of the high street weather the weather better than others. For instance, John Lewis has shown its business model to be resilient by delivering sales up by 13 per cent over the 22 weeks to 30 June. Indeed, department stores tend to do better in the damp weather as consumers tend to head to one-stop-shops instead of the beach or park. Both John Lewis and Debenhams have continued to evolve their appeal and appear to have momentum.

By contrast, womenswear sales at Marks & Spencer were stuttering before the bad weather began in April, and the rain-clouds have served only to highlight the wider issues the retail giant faces in its struggle to capture the imagination of women from 30 to 70 years old.

At the more troubled end of the high street, JJB Sports blamed the rain partly for yesterday's profit warning, but it has been effectively crisis-stricken for around four years. French Connection, by contrast, was decent enough not to mention the weather when it posted its third profit warning in seven months in May. Indeed, it is perhaps more surprising that, nearly halfway through an exceptionally soggy summer, there have not been more rain-related profit warnings.

With shoppers in some parts of the country needing boats merely to reach the shops, it's plain that weather is not for retailing wimps. But it helps if chains have the muscle to reduce their chances of going under.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee