Over the past week, fashion retailers have faced the perfect storm with the early Easter holiday weekend, rent day, consumer confidence and snow all falling at once.
Yet again, the headlines report that retailers fear they have been dealt a rotten egg at Easter. However, there has been a mixed response to Easter sales from fashion chiefs, as volatile trading patterns continue and they look to the bumpy journey ahead in April as tough comparatives from last year loom.
However, comments about trading over Easter have ranged from “awful” to “surprisingly good”, with more of the latter.
The weekly like-for-like sales figures from BDO Stoy Hayward’s sales index – printed in full in tomorrow’s Retail Week magazine – reveal that fashion sales in the week to Easter Monday were up 4.35 per cent.
This is in stark contrast to homewares, which was down 15.61 per cent, but second to non-fashion sales, up 9.82 per cent.
Figures from Footfall also reveal that, while shopper numbers fell 18 per cent on the Easter weekend versus the non-Easter weekend year on year, shopper numbers were up 6.8 per cent when comparing this year’s Easter bank holiday weekend with the holiday weekend last year.
And today’s figures from the CBI show that while March was lacklustre, with retailers reporting flat year-on-year sales, the results were better than retailers’ expectations after a poor February. What’s more, expectations for April are upbeat, with year-on-year growth forecast by a balance of 10 per cent of retailers.
A number of fashion bosses have reported patchy trading over Easter. The majority expect sales to remain volatile in April – in April last year, young fashion was thriving and the sun actually shone, distant memory though it is.
But, in the same breath, many are forecasting a respite soon and most favour May, June and July for delivering just that.
However, while the figures and anecdotal evidence may go some way towards alleviating the entrenched sense of gloom among retailers, in the words of one womenswear chief executive: doom mongering has gone on so long that the customer is starting to believe it.
So, as retailers shake off the remnants of the Easter snow, the wise ones are those that are hunkering down to ride out a rocky April so that, when the sun shines on consumer confidence, they do not look the April fool.