Fashion faces bleak UK Christmas but beauty should prosper say analysts

With everything left to play for in the final two months of the year, retailers are fully focused on the Christmas shopping season, but analysts are predicting only “modest Christmas cheer” for UK retail after what has been a weak 2018 so far.


Christmas may not be merry for UK fashion retailers

GlobalData’s prediction for Q4 (also known as the ‘Golden quarter’ because of the festive season’s heavy spend) is that total UK retail sales will rise just 2% to reach £98.8 billion.

Unfortunately, non-food sales – of which fashion makes up a huge chunk – will lag even this small growth figure with only a 1.6% uplift. Given that inflation is close to 3%, that means a contraction in real terms. And to make matters worse for the fashion sector, that 1.6% isn’t seen as benefiting this category, with health & beauty predicted to see the strongest non-food increase.

That’s because shoppers are expected to “splurge on premium lines for both gifting and self-treating.” This should be helped by “a wider choice of brands and greater shopper knowledge, especially in terms of ingredients,” GlobalData said. And “with the appeal of department stores on the wane, [it expects] online pureplays to take advantage, luring shoppers in with discounts and loyalty schemes.”

“While it has been a year of retail failures, profit warnings and store closures so far, the ‘golden quarter’ offers retailers the opportunity to gain sales from consumers who are finally ready to prioritise shopping,” it added. “But low consumer confidence and confusion over Brexit will inhibit big-ticket spend, and trading-down to value retailers is becoming more widespread, due to the rapid store expansion of players such as B&M and Home Bargains.”

The analysts said that while it “has been a less than stellar year for many clothing retailers, Q4 will be no different.” It particularly expects mid-market players “to be left out in the cold once again as shoppers trade up for enhanced quality, making it yet another challenging Christmas ahead for clothing market leader M&S.”

GlobalData believes that “giving shoppers a reason to make wants-driven purchases, and forego spending on other categories, through compelling product and value for money, will be the key to a successful festive season.”

But even if retailers get this right, the analysts still see online pureplays such as Asos and Boohoo as being the biggest likely winners this Christmas “given their potent mix of discounts, and fast and convenient fulfilment.”

The researchers said that “Christmas is set to be the icing on the cake” for e-tailers “with more consumers than ever choosing to buy online for the festive period. Online pureplays will prove popular again this year thanks to their best-in-class shopping experience. Amazon is set to remain a top choice for gift purchases as its broad product range appeals, and as Amazon Prime subscribers turn to the retailer as their first port of call.”

Instagram’s shopping function, which launched this year, as well as Pinterest featuring direct links to retailers’ product pages, should also provide a boost with “the ease of purchase through social media [set to] drive impulse purchases of partywear as well as gifts across sectors.”

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