The high street gears up for the ‘toughest Christmas period in living memory’


The high street gears up for the ‘toughest Christmas period in living memory’ as traditional stores continue to struggle

  • New figures show that spending at internet stores is continuing to rise sharply 
  • Total spend on clothing online is rising at 10% a year and will reach £18.3bn
  • Experts say this trend is creating a black hole in high street sales

Neil Craven, Financial Mail on Sunday

Beleaguered high street shops are braced for a brutal festive trading season as internet sales hit new highs and traditional stores struggle to cope.

Dark clouds are gathering over the high street as it faces what top retail sources are calling the ‘toughest Christmas ever’.

It raises the prospect of more firms following House of Fraser into administration and will increase pressure on Chancellor Philip Hammond to reduce the crippling tax burden on high street shops in the Budget later this year.

Beleaguered high street shops are braced for a brutal festive trading season as internet sales hit new highs and traditional stores struggle to cope

Beleaguered high street shops are braced for a brutal festive trading season as internet sales hit new highs and traditional stores struggle to cope

Beleaguered high street shops are braced for a brutal festive trading season as internet sales hit new highs and traditional stores struggle to cope

New figures supplied to The Mail on Sunday show that spending at internet stores is continuing to rise sharply – with almost a quarter of all fashion and footwear bought online by the end of this year.

Total spend on clothing online is rising at 10 per cent a year and will reach £18.3 billion by the end of the year, according to Mintel, and will comfortably hit £20 billion in 2019. Experts say this is creating a black hole in high street sales.

Clothing shops still dominate most city centres but rapid growth at online fashion retailers such as Asos, Boohoo and Missguided have forced an annual epidemic of discounting that decimates profits.

House of Fraser collapsed into administration last month and John Lewis is this week expected to say profits in the first-half of its financial year have been wiped out by rising online competition. It is now working to boost its online growth.

John Lewis is this week expected to say profits in the first-half of its financial year have been wiped out by rising online competition. It is now working to boost its online growth

John Lewis is this week expected to say profits in the first-half of its financial year have been wiped out by rising online competition. It is now working to boost its online growth

John Lewis is this week expected to say profits in the first-half of its financial year have been wiped out by rising online competition. It is now working to boost its online growth

Meanwhile, documents filed at Companies House by Swedish clothing giant H&M have revealed that it is also feeling the squeeze. 

Profits at its £1.1 billion turnover British division last financial year plunged by a quarter to £37.3 million in what it described as a ‘challenging retail environment’.

One company chairman told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We have to be optimistic because there is everything to play for. But this year has been hard for many retailers and it would be naive to believe this is going to be anything but the toughest Christmas period many of us can remember.’

Samantha Dover, a senior retail analyst at Mintel, which supplied the online fashion figures, said: ‘A lot of store-based retailers have struggled because there was an assumption the internet wasn’t going to have the impact it has.

‘But pure internet retailers like Asos are outperforming because they are more willing to take risks, are faster moving and respond quicker to what people want.’ 

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