Prices slashed in Christmas finale

Retailers will make their final pitch to Christmas shoppers with savage discounts this week in a last-ditch attempt to stimulate sales.

The next seven days will make or break the year for many of the country's biggest chains as the high street's final countdown to Christmas kicks off.

Analysts believe this festive trading season will see the high street divide sharply into winners and losers - as any wander over the weekend around the nation's shopping centres and retail thoroughfares revealed.

There is a clear distinction between those retailers able to protect their profit margins by limiting their promotions to bulk discounts - as Marks & Spencer is doing - and those forced into slashing their prices by 50 per cent and more.

Many of the chains under the control of Iceland's Baugur, including the womenswear chain Whistles and the shoe retailer Nine West, are among those to have halved the cost of shopping in their outlets.

A study by Ernst & Young, the consultants, has found that retailers are relying on fewer but deeper discounts to drive sales. Footwear and entertainment retailers are the worst culprits, but price cuts across the high street are on average 5 per cent deeper than last year, the report said.

Jason Gordon, senior manager for retail at the firm, said it was a "matter of when, not if," retailers ratcheted up the level of discounting in response to "significantly lower footfalls than last year".

The latest shopping traffic data from Footfall, which measures UK retail traffic, showed that the number of shoppers out from last Monday to Thursday dropped by nearly 7 per cent against the same four-day period last year.

Figures from SPSL, which also measures shopper traffic, showed that for the Saturday just gone, 2.1 per cent fewer shoppers hit the high street, although the figure was fractionally up on the previous Saturday.

"Consumers know they can afford to play a waiting game because retailers need their business. They just hang around until retailers give away some margin that suits their pockets," Tim Denison, a director at SPSL, said yesterday.

This Christmas will be a big test of consumers' appetites for credit-card debt. In previous years, the amount borrowed to fund the festive splurge has increased but consumers have begun paying back some of their debt during 2006.

The high street will be helped this week by the fact that tomorrow is the cut-off date for ordering most goods online for pre-Christmas delivery. Analysts have attributed much of the high street's softness to the fact that people have shopped from home over the internet.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there