Blog: Leonie BarrieWeather dampens sales

Leonie Barrie | 20 July 2007

M&S’ chief executive Stuart Rose is pretty cynical at the best of times, but even he must rue the day last November when he famously said “weather is for wimps,” dismissing the favourite excuse of poorly-performing retailers. Since then, not only has the UK high street been forced to battle one of the wettest summers on record, along with strong comparative figures with the football World Cup and warm weather at this time last year, but five interest rate rises also mean that mean debt and mortgage repayments are eroding consumers’ disposable incomes.
Figures released last week by the British Retail Consortium show that some shoppers have been lured back into stores by price cuts and, ironically, that footfall in some department stores and malls was higher than expected as consumers sought to escape the miserable weather outside. But of course summer ranges and swimwear were the last things on their minds; instead there was an uncharacteristically brisk trade in formal wear, umbrellas and rain coats.
So for all the best design, merchandising, planning and sourcing systems that the apparel industry can conjure up, it seems the weather and the Bank of England’s monetary policy continue to be the real business benchmarks. And as more interest rate rises loom, and the impact of high discounting on margins will undoubtedly be felt as the year progresses, it’s likely there will be more bad news on the way.


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