Fashion chains braced for tough autumn

Fashion retailers, battered by the soggy summer, are pulling out all the stops in preparation for a potentially tough autumn.

On the back of the wettest August on record, store groups fear that rising interest rates, utility price hikes and stagnating house prices will make the battle for share of shoppers' purses even harder.

Peter Davies, chief executive of Principles and Warehouse, said the bad summer weather had not helped fashion groups, but warned retailers not to rely on cold temperatures this autumn. He said: 'The weather will be what the weather will be. The main thing is finding the right mix of 'buy now wear now' product.'

He believes the outlook is gloomy. 'Most retailers are planning for a tougher autumn/winter season than last year,' he said.

David Greenwood, finance director of JJB, which issued a profit warning last week, agreed. 'There's more money being taken out of the consumer pocket. Gas is going up, petrol is going up. This will have some impact,' he said.

However, John Lewis retail operations director Gareth Thomas was bullish and expected his chain to increase sales by up to 4 per cent this autumn.

He said: 'Interest rates might be making shoppers more cautious about spending, but this has not translated into a dip in sales.'