Zara store in Oxford Street open as usual

Oxford Street store reported 2011 murder in lift last year but is open with Zara, Target and M&S

The Oxford Street flagship store of clothing chain Zara remained open as usual on Friday after the spookier-than-usual start to Black Friday, as the autumn/winter sale mends after a row over how the sale should be marketed.

Zara’s main shop, in an underground bay in west London, has stayed open since the trams began running in the area on Thursday evening. The store was told to close during the Oxford Street rampage two years ago, but is taking Friday’s opening as normal.

The brand faces mounting criticism as different models of “forward planning” affect key UK retailers this Black Friday period, which is shaping up to be a whirlwind of retail marketing events.

The news comes as some high street and travel company websites received thousands of orders from abroad in anticipation of sales on Cyber Monday. Last year, a post-Olympics “sick day” shopping surge was used by retailers to boost their online business. Some products were on sale on Monday.

But this year some retailers look to have significantly dampened the demand for sales through their websites for the top-selling items. The clothing chains that have opened their doors to the public for the first time this Black Friday include Kogan and New Look, which are putting far more stock on the sales floor than last year.

A Kogan spokesperson said last week that the price cuts would amount to no more than 5% off the original price for most of its products in contrast to M&S, which is selling lines well below their original prices, the Telegraph reported.

Kogan House has a clearance promotion that runs until midnight on Sunday, while New Look has “festive discounts” on sale.

At Bond Street’s M&S, the usual bargain bargain prices still apply. Shoppers are still able to snap up high-street staples such as a brand new white skirt for £12.50, a down from £18, and bright red tartan jacket for £35, compared with £34.50, but for the first time this year, M&S has introduced its “up to 50% off all lines” discount formula for a limited time only.

Argos has a longer “evening” sale than last year, but can be found in many retailers remaining open on Friday evening, despite a prediction of a 30% fall in footfall over the weekend. The weekend of sales follows several months of unprecedented growth in retail sales, which is a concern for Britain’s struggling high streets.

It is feared that many retailers are rushing Black Friday sales to mark an end to the winter sales in the hope of keeping customers coming in through the spring.

Martin McKee, research fellow at the London School of Economics and a retail expert, said: “Retailers are desperate to take up space – they need to try to fill it. They need to catch the customer at the end of the sales cycle.”

Low-cost online retailers have become much more competitive in the past few years as they were able to set up in high streets.

Last year online retail sales reached £101.3bn, according to the Office for National Statistics. Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving in the US, is typically the busiest day in a consumer’s budget, when online sales soar to more than £1bn.

Reports last week showed that Britain’s high streets experienced their biggest decline in sales volumes for three years in February. More than half of stores, 60%, registered a fall in sales in February and 40% reported a fall in transactions. That was a first since February 2012 and showed a marked reversal from increases seen in the five previous months.

Retail analysts at Springboard, which runs the survey, said it was unclear if retail chiefs were having too much power to decide the closing times and opening hours of department stores, high street clothing chains and discount supermarkets. It called on councils to work more closely with retailers to resolve problems.

“This new era of consumer power and marketing prowess is not balanced by a corresponding willingness for the independent retailer to strike a balance between openness and control. This imbalance is likely to exacerbate the trend of greater fragmentation on the high street.”

Sheila Naylor, senior retail researcher at Springboard, said any success this Black Friday was “unlikely to move the needle to a positive view on Britain’s high streets”.

Leave a Comment