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Rhys Williams, retail analyst at Seymour Pierce in London, calls 2003 a “cautious” year for U.K. retail and is projecting growth of 2 to 3 percent. “The economy and the retail sector cannot sustain year-on-year growth of 6 percent — which we’ve seen in the past — so we see the slowdown in a positive light.” Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Joseph all said they can’t complain about the summer’s sales trends.
A Harrods spokesman said the store took in more money in July than in any other month in the history of the store. “Year-on-year in July, sales were up 5 percent with women’s wear up 8 percent,” he said. “In August, sales are up 6 percent so far, with an 8 percent rise in women’s wear.” Because only about 25 percent of Harrods’ sales come from non-U.K. residents, the spokesman added any drop in tourism did not have such a big impact on sales.
Julia Bowe, marketing director for Harvey Nichols, said sales are “generally back to normal” after what she called a difficult first half. “SARS, terrorism threats, the war in Iraq and the congestion charge all had an impact, but now we’ve returned to normal trading with sales flat against last year.”
Sandra Madi, manager of the Joseph flagship on London’s Fulham Road, said there’s been a very good start to the winter season, despite the recent bout of hot weather and slow tourist market.
“Many of our customers are buying transitional items such as midseason tops and dresses. Some are already buying the heavier pieces such as ski jackets and sheepskins,” she said.
On and around Oxford Street, the mood was similarly upbeat at stores such as Zara, Topshop, Fenwick and Selfridges. “The store is really busy at the moment, and has been over the past few weeks. You would have thought the heat would have deterred some people, but it didn’t at all,” said a sales assistant.