Wednesday, 3 August 2011

High Street Slashers: The Real Time Observations of a Shop-a-holic (GUEST POST)

Numbers and graphs are great. I love them. But I do concede that they have their limits. That's why I like to keep it real by walking the floors and talking to knowledgeable people that love the products they are buying.

Company reports have their place and I like to look in the rear view mirror as much as the next person but when I want to hear a real time report from the bad lands of the fashion retailers, I like to hear my friend Tara's take on things - she's got her finger firmly on the pulse.

I'll hand over now.

My name is Tara Petra-Kerry and I am a twenty something high street fashion shop-a-holic.

For me, clothes shopping is an olympic sport. 

In previous years, even though I could almost see shop owners rubbing their hands together during the summer months, I didn't care because I, like many others, would still make the necessary 'must have' purchases for my summer holidays. If you are going to spend months on the running machine and half starving yourself to be 'beach ready', then you want the clothes to complete the look. Believe me, it is gut wrenching to pick up a pair of sandals, a beach bag or a floaty top and pay full price, knowing that in three weeks time the exact same stock will be half price or less. But we feel that buying summery clothes is unavoidable necessary evil, regardless of the price. 

For the majority of people, the busiest buying period for summer is between May and August. Usually, the tills ring like bells on caffeine.
This year, is different. I have noticed some changes in my own spending habits and it seems to have translated onto the shop floor.

I'll summarise the usual annual highlights of any self respecting fashionista’s shopping calendar:

·         in January, the shops aim to sell off their winter stock to make room from spring/summer collections. 'The winter sale'
·         In late August, the opposite happens- shops sell off their summer stock in order to make room for their autumn / winter collections. 'The summer sale'

Over the last month or so, I have been shopping in preparation for my upcoming foreign holiday. Just like every other summer, the stores were packed but something was different….

On closer inspection, it became clear that only part of each store was busy. WHY? SALES! Yes, in the middle of July - peak of the summer buying season - stores were slashing the prices of their stock. Bizarrely, not end of season or damaged products but brand new and 'in' designs were practically being given away. 

New Look had a treasure chest of summer tops enhanced with crochet details down the back, and maxi dresses with gold necklaces attached for £5. A range of sizes and designs covered the rails from wall to wall – something for everyone.
Nowadays £5 doesn't even cover the cost of a break at Starbucks.

New Look wasn't alone, Marks and Spencer did even better as their favourite marked down price seemed to be £3.

Yes - you read correctly- £3! Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed it: tops, underwear, pyjamas, shoes and accessories were all marked at £3.

The famous M&S knickers are usually £4 each or 3 for £10. The price has been put up to £5 each or 3 for £10. Maybe this is to lull shoppers into believing that they are getting an even better bargain by buying 3 pairs now.

Even the designer brands have been affected. Flannel were selling items for £25 (usually you would be looking at upwards of £70 for the same item) and Dorothy Perkins had sheep skin coats reduced by £60! 

Although the shops were crowded with people, the tills were hardly working overtime. At Marks and Spencer, two of the 5 tills were not in use but the other  three tills were hardly overworked. And this was at a time where I would have expected to be queuing for a good while.

Goodness knows why winter collections are also being slashed by upto 80%. The stock was good and I'm not sure why they have chosen to put it in the stores now rather than sell it during the winter season

Clearly, we live in a time where the buyer/ seller relationship is changing.  Shops just seem to be piling it high and selling it low - the layout and presentation simply isn't a priority anymore.

Shopping is now a money saving sport - great fashion at rock bottom prices. Primark has become Primani. My suitcase is bulging and my purse is in a better state than ever before. Credit crunch? Not for me!


Obviously, Tara's observations are of one city in the Midlands.

It would be interesting to see how these observations are borne out in the next set of figures for the high street retailers.