By Michael Heggie
Marks and Spencer is to hold a second one-day, 20%-off sale tomorow, as it tries to tempt shoppers to spend despite the continuing economic gloom.
In its second one-day sale in two weeks, M&S said many stores would stay open until midnight to enable customers to take advantage of the discount.
The company said that, in addition, customers would receive 20 per cent off Christmas cakes and puddings. Shoppers will also gain from the 2.5 per cent reduction in VAT announced in last week’s Pre-Budget Report and rolled out across UK retailers on Monday.
M&S also announced plans for extended opening hours at many of its stores to allow as many shoppers as possible to take advantage.
Sir Stuart Rose, executive chairman of M&S, said the decision followed the success of the last one-day sale on November 20.
He said: “Our last One Day Christmas Spectacular went down really well with customers. We know that people are feeling the pinch and we want to give them a helping hand in the run-up to Christmas.”
However, analysts have speculated that the sales, which come during the worst conditions seen on the high street in at least three years, are a sign of weakness, suggesting that M&S has too much stock that it is trying to shift.
The move comes as Debenhams, the UK’s second-biggest department store chain, is holding a three-day sale offering discounts of up to 20 per cent.
Experian, the market research group, said this week that there was little evidence that aggressive discounting was boosting overall shopper numbers.
New data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), revealed that shop price inflation is easing, from 3.0 per cent in October to 2.7 per cent in November — the lowest rate since June, and a steady fall from the series high of 3.8 per cent in August.
The annual increase in food prices fell from 7.5 per cent in October to 7.1 per cent last month, while non-food inflation also fell from 0.7 per cent to 0.4 per cent
Online retailer Littlewoods Direct is also cutting prices by up to 60% until 23 December.
Mark Newton-Jones, Littlewoods Direct chief executive, said: “Despite the announced VAT cuts and falling fuel prices, customers are facing tough times this Christmas and we want to help ease them through this period.”
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: “High-profile discounting and falling prices for key commodities have brought overall shop price inflation down even more from its peak in August.”
The moves by M&S and Debenhams will pile pressure on John Lewis. Weekly sales at its department stores, during the week that M&S held its first one-day sale, were down 13.3 per cent on the previous year — sparking speculation that M&S had lured shoppers away from it.