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Next warns on sales figures

Friday 6 January 2017

Dr Gordon Fletcher, retail expert at the University of Salford Business School, comments on disappointing sales at Next and other high street clothing retailers, announced this week.

He said: “The profit warning announcements today from Next, Marks and Spencer and Debenhams do not come as a surprise and all signal how complex and even fraught high street clothes retailing has become. Although American Apparel and BHS failed last year for different reasons there has nonetheless been a steady erosion of clothing stores on the UK high street for many years with Internacionale, Banana Republic, Mexx, Ben Sherman, Tie Rack, Austin Reid and Store Twenty One all either restructuring operations or removing themselves entirely from physical retailing.

“While the individual reasons vary between each retailer, the consistent message is that mainstream and middle-of-the-road clothing retailing are being threatened by online operations who offer more customised experiences - as well as free returns, choice, wider size ranges and competitive pricing. Amazon and Ebay are so far the only two "pure" online retailers in the Top 20 list of UK clothing retailers (by market share) but this position will shift as more familiar high street brands are increasingly forced away from bricks and mortar. 

“The other threat to traditional clothing retailers comes from the big and ubiquitous high street grocers. Asda's George, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Morrisons presence in the top 20 of UK clothing retailers hints to a change in our relationship with "fast fashion" and utility clothing that reduces t-shirts and socks to the same status as a pint of milk or a loaf of bread with the added convenience of all being found in a single location. Our more adventurous purchases are better undertaken online where the unique and the unusual can be more readily found than amongst the anonymous racks of a big retailer.”

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Sam Wood

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