Retailers are steadfastly resisting caving in to pre- Christmas Sale fever....
Retailers are steadfastly resisting caving in to pre- Christmas Sale fever.

A focus on tighter stock at retailers such as Marks & Spencer - widely understood to be outperforming the market this season - means fewer retailers are panicking, in contrast to last year when many went on Sale before Christmas.

Special promotions designed to tempt shoppers are apparent up and down the high street, but GUS finance director David Tyler said: 'Retailers have gone into this Christmas with more conservative views about the likely level of sales and that has influenced the promotional pattern. We always have planned activity after Christmas and we're planning something this year.'

Woolworths will begin its Sale on Boxing Day, with 50 per cent off products from all categories.

SPSL shopper traffic figures indicate that consumers have taken to the high street. On Monday and Tuesday, figures were up 0.5 per cent and 0.9 per cent on last year respectively.

However, speculation is mounting that because of trading difficulties, some small- to medium-sized retailers might have gone to the wall already, with quarterly rents due next week. Tiles R Us, furniture retailer Walmsley and fashion concessionaire Offshoot have all plunged into administration in the past two weeks.

But department stores are performing well. John Lewis reported record sales last week of£84.1 million, up 7.1 per cent on last year, while a spokesman for Debenhams said: 'We're pleased with the way things are going.'

At the high end, Harrods said it is trading 5 per cent to 6 per cent up on last year, with last Saturday its busiest-ever non-Sale Saturday. Harvey Nichols reported sales up 8 per cent since November.

However, others was not so positive. Asda chief executive Andy Bond said he believed it would be 'goodrather thangreat'.

Sebastian James, chief executive of DVD specialist Silverscreen said: 'It is definitely harder than last year, but we are doing OK.'

Others were pleased to have the extra Saturday, with toy chain The Entertainer expecting a sales uplift on the month of about 4 per cent from Christmas Eve sales. Music Zone managing director Steve Oliver said: 'It's all to play for in the last week. I can see us doing 50 per cent more on Christmas Eve this year.'