Christmas comes early as desperate retailers slash prices with discounts of 70%

But experts warn retailers are creating a generation used to promotions that simply won't buy full-priced items

Maria Tadeo@mariatad
Monday 08 December 2014 18:08
Shoppers walk past a sales sign on Oxford Street
Shoppers walk past a sales sign on Oxford Street

It is the season for the shopaholic to be merry with earlier and bigger discounts in the run-up to Christmas as retailers push for hefty promotions going into the crucial festive trading period.

The emergence of Black Friday and the impact of a mild autumn on clothing sales means shoppers are seeing discounts of as much as 78 per cent, according to advisory firm Deloitte.

With bargains ranging from clothes to electronic goods, customers have been benefiting from some of the best retail offers in recent memory as markdowns have reached new highs, with Christmas still weeks away.

It is the fourth successive year that prices have been dropped and the discounts are predicted to offer savings of up to 90 per cent after Christmas as high-street stores try to capitalise on the momentum generated by Black Friday.

“At the moment we are seeing marginally deeper pre-Christmas reductions than last year and the success of Black Friday has demonstrated the appetite for a bargain in the UK,” said Jason Gordon, consumer business partner at Deloitte.

A separate study by Price Waterhouse Coopers also found that the number of high-street stores offering sales was up last week, with an average discount of nearly 40 per cent.

The rise of Black Friday, an American shopping institution that takes place the day after Thanksgiving and kicks off the festive shopping season, helped trigger an early round of discounts with most retailers jumping on the bandwagon this year in an effort to clear out stock and encourage people to shop.

This resulted in shoppers spending £819m in 24 hours – an 18 per cent increase from last year – as they pushed and shoved their way to a cheap television, according to data from Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all the UK’s debit and credit card transaction.

However, experts have warned heavy discounts have created a generation of shoppers programmed to buy on promotion, while shunning full-priced items.

“It’s been too much, too soon,” said retail expert Vicki Day, a director at Pure Sauce. “Retailers are desperate to clear out stock following a very warn autumn and shoppers can smell desperation. How much lower can you go? They’re eating their trade out by going for 60 per cent discounts four weeks before Christmas.

“Shoppers know there’s more to go and, in the end, retailers always lose.”

Meanwhile, weather woes are also driving prices with high-street giants from Next to Superdry owner Super Group warning of slowing sales after a mild autumn put people off from buying coats and winter jackets. The focus is now on clearing out stock by upping promotions as Christmas looms nearer.

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