Sunday, 25 January 2009

Have the Christmas Sales Destroyed Hopes of a Retail Recovery?

It is finally January and the industry is slowly recovering from the Christmas frenzy. The smoke is clearing to leave retailers facing the start realities of 2009, and the January slowdown is giving businesses time to reflect on the follies of collective price-slashing hysteria.

Personally, I have a feeling that the unprecedented reductions in the 2008 Christmas sales are going to accelerate the bankruptcy of most retailers, rather than saving them. I believe this for two reasons.
  1. Slashing prices might mean that stock continued to be shifted even under the heavy shadow of the credit crunch, but there were no margins to be made, and consequently most retailers suffered heavy losses. When the next quarterly rent comes round, many of these retailers are now going to have even fewer funds to cover their payments. With the banks still not lending, we should expect an explosion in businesses going into administration.

  2. The crazy prices encouraged people to throw their money at all sorts of products they didn't need, and will thus have significantly reduced consumer liquidity. In early December, the credit crunch was only just beginning to effect people outside the financial industry. After a few years of boom time, with life carrying as usual for most people, the buying figures show a distinct lack of prudence on consumer behalf. As the above businesses go under, many more 'common' people are going to lose their jobs. When they do, any spending buffers they might have had will have disappeared with their Christmas extravaganzas. For the retailers that survive the next quarterly rents, this means that their sales are going to drop even worse than they could normally have expected. This in turn could see many of the early survivors go down too.
Long and short of it is that by indulging in short termist price wars, retailers have simply dug their own graves.