BEHIND THE HEADLINES: UK retailers remain upbeat about spending

UK retailers are putting a brave face on the current global crisis,

insisting it's business as usual as they prepare for a Christmas PR

push.



Despite fears of a full-blown recession and news of further job cuts

across the private sector in the wake of the 11 September terror

attacks, UK consumer spending is showing no signs of slowing down.



According to research last week from the CBI's monthly Distributive

Trades Survey, consumer confidence remains high. The September survey of

retailers - for which 70 per cent of the 266 companies surveyed

responded after the atrocities - has found no evidence of a

slowdown.



Sixty-two per cent of retailers said sales were up last month compared

with a year ago, while just eight per cent said sales were down, though

last September the UK was going through the fuel crisis, so some kind of

uplift might have been expected.



Chairman of the DTS panel, Boots corporate affairs director Alastair

Eperon, says the results of the survey are more upbeat than the media

coverage had led many to fear, but warns that: 'Retailers remain anxious

that external pressures, brought about by a global slowdown, will have

an impact on trading prospects.'



Retail PROs are preparing for that eventuality. Retail PR firm Aurelia

MD Alix Robson says: 'Eventually there will be an impact on consumers,'

but added that despite a gloomy outlook, the Christmas rush is due and

retailers are focused on making it a success.



Selfridges - which has a large percentage of the declining overseas

customer market - announced its half-year results at the end of

September and spokeswoman Charlotte Elston admitted the impact of the

attacks was an immediate drop in sales of seven to eight per cent in the

Oxford Street store that week: 'There will be no discounting before

Christmas, and we are running active PR programmes. The main thing is

footfall - getting people in through the doors,' she said.



Comet PR manager Karen Alder admits the company is preparing to step up

PR work in the event of a consumer slump: 'Our marketing is strong as we

move into our big season, but if things change we will look at upping

the ante on PR.'



Although the CBI survey suggests consumer spending continues to hold up,

this may reflect a time lag in the effects of the global crisis. And

while there will always be a certain amount of basic spending on food

and clothing, luxury and tourist spending could be hit especially hard.



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