Blog: Leonie BarrieRetailers continue to be challenged over Christmas

Leonie Barrie | 13 January 2014

Results on the performance of apparel retailers over the key Christmas shopping season are continuing to trickle through, with figures released last week showing that December proved to be a challenging month for those in the US.

The most promotional retailing environment in five years, a shortened holiday season, sluggish consumer spending, and adverse weather conditions all took their toll on comparable store sales - forcing many firms to cut their profit forecasts.

Over in the UK, there were also fluctuating fortunes for some of the biggest names in British retailing: Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's.

M&S's general merchandise sales continued to fall in the third quarter, despite much-publicised efforts to turn around its women's wear business. Blaming unseasonal weather and high levels of discounting, the company said, however, that it is moving in the right direction.

Tesco, meanwhile, said its online clothing sales had soared over the Christmas period - but booked an overall decline in UK like-for-like sales. While Sainsbury's said it achieved "record" levels of market share for its general merchandise and clothing business over the period.

Global clothing brands are being urged by labour rights groups and trade unions to support a rise in the minimum wage for Cambodian garment workers - and to look at the long-term implications of their purchasing practices.

The groups have spoken out after a dispute over minimum wage increases led to the deaths of at least four people during a two-week long garment worker strike that came to an end last week.

US apparel groups and retailers are calling for swift passage of legislation to help 'fast-track' international trade deals. The so-called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is seen as critically important for the US to conclude on-going trade negotiations with Asia and Europe.

And as we start gazing ahead at apparel industry issues likely to come to the fore in 2014, Mike Flanagan looks at why it is so difficult to forecast long-term trends in garment making. The last two weeks of December, he says, threw up three huge issues that overturned most of the current wisdom about the industry


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