“This time of year is always make or break for me,” she observed. “The Christmas season is obviously the most important part of our year. Sales during the last week in November and the first three weeks of December are responsible for 25 per cent of our annual turnover and all of our profit!”
I asked her how she viewed this year’s festive season, whether she has seen any of the elusive green shoots that we have heard so much about at her end of the high street.
“Well, business has certainly picked up a little, but we are still 20 per cent down from last year. If it stays like this it won’t be a disaster, I won’t have to close or anything, but I probably will have to let one of the three staff go. I’ll just have to take up the slack myself.”
Up and down the country retailers, long addicted to the sugar rush of the Christmas frenzy, are girding themselves. Will the shoppers decide that they are safe enough in their jobs to come out and spend?
The large retailers are talking a good story. Many of them announcing that because of their lean inventories this year there will not be the deep discounting that we saw last year. The message to us shoppers: shop early, there won’t be any benefit from waiting ‘till the last minute.
The nation’s favourite, Marks and Spencer, has been most vocal in their “No Discounting” policy. Others, like John Lewis, are reporting that early indications are that shoppers are loosening the purse strings compared to last year and they too are talking tough on panic discounting.
But this is a tough game and Debenhams has already broken ranks with early offers and discounts. Will M&S hold the line? Who knows, but if you see that they are doing any of their special 20 per cent off days in the run up to Christmas you will know that the chances of there being three staff in the lady’s card shop come the New Year are slim.
Anthony Carty is a director at Clifton Asset Management
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