Sales Guide: Troubled stores ask public: please shop generously

THE SEASONAL high street sales kicked off yesterday with retailers hoping that a surge of business in the run-up the millennium will make up for dismal pre-Christmas trading.

This year's extended Christmas holiday, with many people off work until 4 January, means that shoppers could be out in force over the coming week and spending freely.

Many retailers make half or even three-quarters of their profits in the two months leading up to Christmas, but hopes of a last-minute rush appear not to have been realised. Experts in the City are expecting a rash of profit warnings in January from retailers, led by Marks & Spencer, which has had a terrible trading year.

Despite a booming consumer economy, double-digit house price inflation, unemployment at a 20-year low and employment at an all-time high, consumers have held back from an 1980s-style spending spree. The problem for retailers is that while sales volumes have stayed reasonably robust, price rises have been minimal and in some cases, shops have been forced to cut prices. In the run-up to Christmas, stores, such as M&S, C&A and Bhs, launched "pre- Christmas sales", cutting up to a third off leading items.

The latest official figures showed shops sold 4.1 per cent more goods in November than a year ago but the value of sales was only 3.3 per cent higher.

The figures also showed that prices had fallen 0.9 per cent over the last year, squeezing retailers' profit margins. Clothing retailers have suffered the most: while the value of household goods sales is 8 per cent up on a year ago, clothing and footwear sales have risen by just 1 per cent.

Pressure to discount has also come from competition from Internet traders, who can offer cheaper prices because of their low overheads, the entry of US-style trading methods as seen in the takeover of Asda by WalMart, and consumer awareness of the Government's campaign against "rip-off Britain".

Richard Hyman, chairman of the independent analysts Verdict Research, said: "We have said all along that November would be awful and the first two weeks of December would be just as bad. But we believe the millennium effect will kick in and that will save the retailers from having had a very poor Christmas." He said the "unprecedented" number of days off work, combined with the millennium celebrations, meant that people would spend more on entertainment, especially on food and drink.

But in a report published today, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) forecasts that consumer spending in January will be just 4.1 per cent up on last year - the lowest year-on-year rise since October 1998 when many people were forecasting a global recession.

It said the new year sales were likely to "fall flat" as the country recovered from a "millennium hangover". And it warned that a pre-millennial spending spree would leave retailers short of stock. CEBR's chief economist Douglas McWilliams said: "The mismatch between consumer confidence and retail hesitance in the run-up to Christmas is going to leave January bargain-hunters a little disappointed."

Despite the gloomy forecasts, those stores that opened yesterday appeared to have been well rewarded. Three dozen people were queuing outside Courts, the furniture retailer, in Staples Corner, north London, before trading began. A spokesman said: "The shop is packed. People are buying everything - electrical goods, suites, beds. Business is booming and better than before Christmas."

However, a survey published yesterday demonstrated an increased disillusionment with "sales". More than half of the 998 people questioned in a B&Q survey were aware that retailers put up prices before a sale, so they could discount heavily during sale periods, and two-thirds felt that most of the contents of a sale were specially purchased for the event. A third believed the sale goods they bought did not offer good value.

Stephen Robertson, marketing director of B&Q, said: "We predict that sales will soon be a thing of the past, rather like lunch-time and early Wednesday closing."


Carden Cunlett, 83 Westbourne Park Road, LondonW2, 0171 229 8559. Sale from 11 to 25 January.

Designers Guild, 267 King's Road, London SW3, 0171 351 5775; 6 Relay Road, Anel Way, Wood Lane, London W12. Sale dates to be confirmed.

Jerry's Home Store, 163 Fulham Road, London SW3. Sale from today to 31 January.

The Holding Company, 241-245 King's Road, London SW3, 0171 352 600; Bluewater Shopping Centre, Dartford, 01322 387 400; 41 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2, 0161 834 3400. Telephone for mail order on 0171 610 9160. Sale from tomorrow to 31 January.

Monogrammed Linen Shop, 168 Walton Street, London SW3, 0171 589 4033. Sale from 4 to 31 January.

Mulberry Hall, Little Stonegate, York Y01, 01904 620 736. Sale from 6 January to about mid-February.

David Mellor, 4 Sloane Square, London SW1, 0171 730 4259.

The Round House, Hathersage, Derbyshire, 01433 650 220. Sale from 8 to 22 January.

Christopher Wray, 591 King's Road, London SW6, 0171 736 8434. Branches through the UK. Sale on now to about mid-January.

Molton Brown, 58 South Molton Street, London W1, 0171 499 6474. Sale from today to mid- January.

Graham and Green, 4, 7 and 10 Elgin Crescent, London W11, 0171 727 4594; 164 Regent's Park Road, London NW1, 0171 586 2969. Sale from 7 to 31 January.

Heals, 196 Tottenham Court Road, London W1P, 0171 636 1666. 27 December to 23 January; 234 King's Road, London SW3, 0171 349 8411; Tungsgate, Guildford GU1. Sale from today to 16 January.

Back2, 28 Wigmore Street, London W1H, 0171 935 0351. Sale from 7 January to mid- February.

Simon Horn Furniture, 117-121 Wandsworth Bridge Road, London SW6, 0171 731 1279. Sale from 4 to 31 January.

Harrods, Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW1X, 0171 730 1234. Sale from 5 to 29 January.

Liberty, Regent Street, London W1 0171 734 1234. Sale from today until further notice.

John Lewis, Oxford Street, London W1A, 0171 629 7711. Sale from tomorrow to 11 January.

Same, 146 Brick Lane, London E1, 0171 247 9992. Sale from 4 to 30 January

Harry Corry, 45 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1, 01232 320 721. Sale until end of January.

Laura Ashley, 9 Castle Court, Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1, 01232 233 313. Sale from today to end of January.

Habitat, 1-9 Donegall Place, Belfast BT1, 01232 237 020. Sale from today to end of January.

Habitat, Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow G1, 0141 331 2233. Sale from today to end of January.

Frasers, 21-59 Buchanan Street, Glasgow G1, 0141 221 3880. Sale now on.

Linens Fine, The Courtyard, Princes Square, Buchanan Street, Glasgow G1, 0141 248 7082. Sale reopened yesterday.

Harveys Furnishings, 146-152 Trongate, Glasgow G1, 0141 552 7373. Sale started yesterday.

Habitat, 38 Briggate, Leeds LS1, 01132 449 036. Sale from today to end of January.

House of Fraser, 140-142 Briggate, Leeds, LS1, 01132 435 235. Sale from today to end of January.

Harvey Nichols, 107-111 Briggate, Leeds, LS1, 01132 048 888. Sale starts today.

Habitat, 13 St Anne's Street, Manchester M2, 0161 835 3612. Sale from today to end of January.

Kendals, Deansgate, Manchester M60, 0161 832 3414. Sale from today to end of January.

The Holding Company, 41 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2, 0161 834 3400. Sale from tomorrow to end of January.

Lloyd Davies, 14 John Dalton Street, Manchester M2, 0161 832 3700. Sale from today to end of January.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
Life and Style
food + drink
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

CCNP Network Engineer - Farnborough, £250 pd

£250 per day: Orgtel: Network Engineer (CCNP), Cisco Gold Partner, Farnborough...

Technical Consultant Configuration, SQL, SQL Server

£55000 - £65000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Technical Cons...

Lead Business Analyst - Banking - London - £585

£525 - £585 per day: Orgtel: Lead Business Analyst - Investment Banking - Lond...

Commercial IT Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Commercial IT Solicitor - London We h...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home