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EDITORIAL Peak trading gets underway – but will shoppers cut back on spending as recession threatens?

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In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we’re reporting as this year’s peak trading season gets off to a start. It’s the most important time of the year for many retailers, but this year evidence points towards many shoppers cutting back on spending in light of the rising cost of living – including higher energy bills. Retailers appear to be responding by launching Black Friday campaigns earlier than usual. We have more details in our Peak 2022 round-up.

This comes as the latest official figures suggest that slowing retail sales were a factor as gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.2% in the third quarter of this year, compared to the previous quarter. Shoppers, says the ONS, appear to be buying fewer goods as their disposable incomes are hit by the rising cost of living. Retailers, in turn, appear to be cutting back on stock. A further quarter of falling GDP will put the UK in a technical recession – one that the Bank of England has already predicted. 

The Works today says its value range of products means it’s well placed for a downturn – but it’s taking a cautious approach. It’s seen store sales rise in the first half of its financial year, but online sales have fallen. Nonetheless, the retailer believes the decline in its online sales is now stabilising following a decline from pandemic peaks, and it has high hopes for significant growth in the medium term. 

WHSmith also sees potential in its online business, and continued to invest in it at a time when its shoppers are returning in-store on the high street and and in travel locations. Its aim is to improve its customer service, through fast delivery and through improved – and personalised – products. 

Meanwhile value retailer B&M has reported its first online revenues, following the launch of a trial home delivery service in the summer. B&M launched its home delivery trial in June, and today shoppers can buy products from toys and Christmas decorations to homewares, DIY products, electricals and pet accessories on its website.

In today’s guest column, Laura Davies of ZigZag Global argues returns are a useful tool for retailers looking to save the sale this peak shopping season. 

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