N Brown is gearing up for fierce Christmas trading in a volatile consumer environment as it seeks to recover from a tough third quarter.
N Brown chief executive Angela Spindler said this Christmas “will be up there” with the most competitive Christmas trading periods she has ever seen following the unseasonably warm weather.
She said: “We are already seeing a competitive landscape, everybody is in the same position and had a very slow start to the season and will have overbought on stock no matter how flexible their stock management capabilities are.
“People don’t want to lose share or momentum. You need to maintain your share of voice and your value position and ensure you are competing.”
The womenswear retailer is entering the key Christmas trading period with good momentum after recording the biggest ever trading day in its history after a tough quarter caused by the weather.
For the 13 weeks to November 29, the mild September weather resulted in a sales decline of 10.8% but improving sales in October and November resulted in an overall sales decline across the quarter of 1.2%.
N Brown took part in Black Friday and broke the £5m sales barrier in a single day for the first time with a 54% year-on-year increase in sales.
However, despite the increased momentum Spindler believes consumer confidence in the run-up to Christmas will remain “volatile”.
She said: “Our consumers are customers on a budget. Confidence and disposable income for them is still quite challenging for those customers when you take a longer-term view. Levels of disposable income, whilst they have improved, are still nowhere near where they were in 2008.”
Despite the lack of disposable income, customers’ management of debt is changing.
Spindler said: “We have the lowest level of customers in arrears for eight years and I think that is a reflection of the changing attitude to financial management.”