Making sense of the past seven days

DSGi’s update yesterday was evidence of just how hard the retail market is to read at the moment.
On the one hand, the retailer beat first quarter expectations as like-for-likes advanced 6 per cent. On the other, it took a margin hit because of having to discount computer hardware.

The electricals giant was a beneficiary of the bad weather that has plagued fashion retailers, but there were jitters that shoppers’ spend had simply been pulled forward.

Finance director Kevin O’Byrne was excited about the strength of products that will be in stores for the crucial Christmas period, but wary of coming over too bullish.

“Too early to tell how the rest of the year will pan out,” was the fundamental message. That sense of uncertainty is afflicting the whole sector. It’s hard to work out how consumers are feeling and to untangle the knot of extreme weather, rising interest rates and pressure on disposable income to gauge whether things will get better, worse or remain pretty much the same.

For an industry as customer-focused as retail, the fuzzy picture being presented at the minute is bad news. Trying to forecast the future is tough enough at the best of times and is especially so now, but it looks as if we’ll have to wait a while yet before there’s any clarity.

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