Struggling retailers start their summer sales early
THE July sales have kicked off early as desperate retailers pray for an early summer bonanza to lift the recession gloom.
Large department stores have all jumped into discount mode, with Arnotts, Clerys, Brown Thomas, House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols all starting their sales yesterday.
Debenhams began slashing its prices on Wednesday.
Price cuts of 40pc to 50pc are being touted at highstreet stores as retailers bid to get shoppers splurging on the latest summer gear, swimwear and accessories, with bargains in homewares, footwear and gift items also on offer.
One retail lobby group, which represents thousands of stores nationwide, said the sales were starting earlier than ever this year.
"This is unprecedented in my memory, but you tend to get this first-mover effect where one store starts its sales and the rest have to follow or lose competitive advantage," Retail Excellence Ireland chief executive David Fitzsimons said.
The early sales were unexpected as most stores had worked hard to reduce their supply costs and stock levels in order to cushion them against the downturn.
Retail experts said this was a sign the market was still struggling despite recent green shoots.
Even the much-hyped 'Sex and the City' movie failed to spur young women into the hoped-for shopping splurge.
While female shoppers were visiting shops in greater numbers, this has not translated into more purchases.
In fact the 'grey market' is faring better than youth fashion.
"Middle-aged and older women are the ones who have money to spend and youth fashion is having a harder time of it at the moment," Mr Fitzsimons added.
However, some of the big department stores disagreed and said there had been a marked upswing in recent months.
"Sales have picked up and we have seen a positive influx of people so we are happy enough with trading," Clerys' marketing manager Sarah Daly said.
Brown Thomas managing director Stephen Sealy added: "Discounts are steeper than ever before because I want it to be a sharper, shorter sale. We have traded at full price all season and we have seen an increase in confidence."
Arnotts' managing director Jayne O'Keeffe said the last two months have seen "consistently strong growth. We are back to double-digit growth across the majority of categories."