Blog: Retailers' hopes pinned on Christmas shopping countdown
Petah Marian | 19 December 2011
As we come into the final shopping days before Christmas, there have been some distinctive differences in the mood of the US and the UK retail sectors.
While both countries recorded rising November sales, US industry watchers saw this as a sign of good things to come. Indeed, Consumer Growth Partners has gone as far as to say that US consumer spending over the holidays is set to beat 2007 pre-recession levels.
However, on the other side of the Atlantic, the UK also recorded positive November sales figures but, rather than this being welcomed as signs of a turnaround, industry watchers argued that the high promotional levels being experienced before Christmas will mean that there will be no incentive for consumers to spend in the post-Christmas sales.
In other UK news, retail guru Mary Portas released her High Street Review on Tuesday. Her 28-step plan to revive troubled high streets received mixed reviews. With a significant element of her review calling for dis-incentives to shop in out-of-town developments, which she blames for the decline in high street shopping, the most scathing responses naturally came from those involved in these centres.
Verdict Research analyst Maureen Hinton argued that these developments are merely responding to consumer desires.
"We want the convenience of large out-of-town supermarkets with plentiful, free parking and a full range of products," she said. "These locations would not survive if we did not shop at them and taxing them more heavily will be a further tax on shoppers rather than retailers and landlords."
Meanwhile, the latest data to come out of the US is forecasting another drop in global demand for cotton as ongoing economic uncertainty and a shift to man-made alternatives continue to weigh on future purchases of the fibre. The US Department of Agriculture is forecasting that demand will drop by 2.6% to 111.3m bales in the 2011/12 season, down on the previous projection of 114.3m bales.
While there is set to be a surplus this year, a number of brands are working to ensure future supplies through their membership of the Better Cotton Initiative. Brands like Levi Strauss and Marks and Spencer are working with their supply chains to promote more sustainably-grown cotton that provides a "middle way" for farmers who might not be able to implement more rigid schemes like Fairtrade or organic certification programmes. just-style met representatives from some of the brands last week to find out more about this scheme.
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