“Is it worth it?” asked one luxury retail chief today at a press event for the finest of British luxury brands.


This is the question wealthy shoppers are beginning to ask, he said.

Luxury purchases are no longer just about ostentation; they are made with longevity and quality in mind.

Of course, there will always be those who would not think twice about splashing out£25,000 on a new Savoir bed or£6,000 on a limited edition Bremont watch. But even in this upper echelon of retail, the more cautious shopper is one whom luxury retailers cannot afford to ignore.

However, the mood among luxury retailers at Walpole’s Christmas press event was irrepressibly upbeat. Many retailers have gone back to the coalface to pinpoint what it is about their brands that consumers react to. Some have diversified into more accessible product areas and broadened ranges for the more aspirational shopper.

Thomas Pink, for example, will offer a full womenswear capsule collection, outside of its traditional shirts range, as well as a casual offer for its male clientele. Daks has gone deeper into accessories, while Holland & Holland has gone back to its roots with a British-made traditional tailored range. And William Asprey’s fledgling brand William & Son has produced a bespoke range of games and accessories alongside its top-end jewellery lines.

Many pointed to Burberry’s recent stellar results as an indication of the firm grip luxury retailing still has on sales and it appears that that grip is not loosening.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the retail spectrum, things are less rosy.

To recode or not to recode? That is the question. Whether it is better to take the margin hit and sell product through at any price in the Sales, or take a risk selling it next year at full price.

Most retailers – apart from Selfridges, which wrapped up its Sale earlier than most and is two weeks ahead of last year sales terms (Retail Week, July 18) – are struggling to shift spring/summer stock.

And, anecdotally, many are taking the recoding option.

The question is, whether retailers can afford to put the money to be made from the over-stock on ice until next year and whether they are confident that they will be able to sell it through.

Only the most robust retailers can afford to defer the cash – which rules many others out.