Summer sales are starting early this year: it's "what our customers want", said a spokesman from Marks & Spencer, whose seasonal sale has begun over two weeks earlier than usual. Meanwhile, other shops are staying open for longer to catch passing trade.
What the commentators said
The change is "a bid by desperate retailers to kick-start a moribund high street that's suffering one of its worst periods for decades", said Simon English in the Evening Standard. As spending in Britain's shops keeps falling May sales volumes fell by 1.4%, compared with April and more consumers shop online, the list of troubled retailers is growing by the day. Liverpool department store TJ Hughes is appointing administrators, while fashion chain Jane Norman has already done so. Chocolate seller Thorntons is planning to shut up to 180 of its 364 stores, while carpet retailer Carpetright has announced a further round of store closures amid plunging profits and an axed dividend.
"No retailer is immune to the problems facing the high street," says Julie Palmer at Begbies Traynor. "It's likely the next quarter rent day in September could see a further surge in the number of retailers facing administration as high-street stores struggle to pay the rent against a backdrop of decreasing discretionary spending and low consumer confidence." Specifically, "Carpetright's slashed dividend payment appears to mark yet another warning for the UK's embattled housing market", says Keith Bowman at Hargreaves Lansdown. "As housing transactions continue to dwindle, management's outlook comments provide little, if any, inspiration."
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What can the government do to help? asks Chris Blackhurst in the Evening Standard. "In truth, not much. It could reduce VAT, but that would damage the public finances (and send a terrible signal to markets searching for a sudden loss of confidence). Right now there's every reason to believe this will get worse before it gets better."
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