LONDON Dec 24 British retailers have brought
forward their Christmas clearance sales online in the hope that
shoppers will log on to buy bargains and offset lacklustre
spending in stores.
Marks & Spencer launched its sale online at midday
on Monday, it said on its website, while department store John
Lewis said it would cut online prices when its stores close at
1700 GMT. Debenhams has already started its online sale.
Retailers in recent years have started sales online on
Christmas Day, ahead of the clearances in stores from Boxing
Day, but are increasingly launching their online offers before
Christmas after delivery deadlines for the day have passed.
Hard-pressed shoppers have been leaving it later to buy
presents in the hope that retailers would slash prices, the
British Retail Consortium said.
It was forecasting that 5 billion pounds ($8.1 billion)
would be spent in the shops on Saturday and Sunday combined, the
last weekend before Christmas.
Richard Dodd, the BRC's head of Media and Campaigns, said
weekend trading had met expectations.
"Christmas, ultimately once all the final sums are done,
will turn out to be acceptable but not exceptional," he said.
He said the sector expected a modest increase in cash
spending against a year go, but not necessarily any significant
increase in real terms once inflation was stripped out.
Many British families' budgets are stretched, according to a
survey from Markit that showed the biggest deterioration in
household finances for seven months.
Analyst Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight said the
weakening in household finances could not come at a worse time
for retailers, and it highlighted why many people appeared to
have been careful in their Christmas shopping this year.
"The suspicion has to be that consumers will be especially
keen to take advantage of genuine major bargains in the sales to
acquire items that they cannot otherwise afford or are reluctant
to make at the moment," he said.
"However, we suspect that people will likely to be more
careful in buying - or reluctant to buy - items that they don't
really want or need in the sales."