Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Internet helps drive retailing success in December

Big discounts in the Christmas shopping rush were harder to find this year as high street chains fought to protect their margins, a report said today.

Combined with the ongoing caution of consumers, business advisory firm BDO's December sales tracker points to "steady but unspectacular" trading.

The report, which studies like-for-like spending at non-grocery retailers with annual sales of between £5m and £500m, showed sales growth of 1.9% on a year earlier, despite a drop of 3.7% in the week to December 16.

BDO said tighter stock planning and better strategies for discounting meant firms were able to achieve an improvement in margins on a year earlier.

"Although experiencing relatively modest year-on-year sales rises, many retailers still count December as a success," they said.

Non-fashion was the strongest sector, with growth of 7.1% thanks to increased sales of Christmas 'gifting' items from well-established brands and stores. Fashion sales were flat year-on-year due to poor weather and strong figures for the same period a year earlier.

Much of the growth came from the internet, with BDO reporting a 30.9% year-on-year rise in non-store sales as shoppers became ever more comfortable with online purchasing - especially from big name brands - as well as making use of growing wi-fi and 4G coverage to pick up bargains while on the move.

BDO's national head of retail, Don Williams, said: "Last year we saw several stores having to slash prices to levels that really hit their profits after getting caught with too much stock.

"This year there has been a focus on protecting margins. By building up to Christmas early in a measured way there has been less knee-jerk discounting."

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