Friday, 13 January 2012

Tough times in retail and the rag trade is only starting to put its numbers in!

It’s been a fascinating few days for retail watchers as the high street puts out its Christmas numbers and we are assaulted by a flurry of like-for-like statistics with clear winners and losers already becoming apparent.

Various reasons have been put forward by the losers for poor performances, including savage discounting by competitors and shoppers using coupons for food purchases. The one excuse we haven’t heard much of yet is the impact of online shopping, but we got a glimpse of what could be carnage next week when a flurry of clothing retailers get their numbers out.

The Halfords numbers, which came out yesterday, include a 10.8 per cent dip in like-for-likes in its car enhancement sector. For those of us who are not fluent in ‘Halfords-speak’ this apparently means that the company has seen “satnav sales fall off a cliff”, according to the Guardian.

Well, I’m not surprised. Anecdotally, I can tell you that I went into Halfords before Christmas to buy a satnav for my better half and was quoted circa £120 for a Garmin model with no Continental European mapping (that was another £55!). I got a slightly smaller Garmin model on Amazon with full Continental European mapping for £69. Ouch!

My guess is that the retail sector is bracing itself for more clothing numbers which are due soon. Certainly, the JD Sports numbers were not great yesterday and that is a bad sign for a company who are normally very on the ball when it comes to anticipating high street trends and maintaining gross margins through the Christmas period (although I notice Ted Baker are up 15 per cent!).

It should be an interesting few days!


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