Skip to Content

Discounts Come Early as U.K. Retailers Try to Save Christmas

All along Oxford Street, London’s central shopping thoroughfare, retailers are adding a new ornament to their holiday window displays: bright red signs that read “50 percent off.”

Fears of a dismal season have mounted since Sports Direct International Plc Chief Executive Officer Mike Ashley said November sales were “unbelievably bad.” Online retailer Asos Plc added to the jitters this week with a profit warning, showing that e-commerce isn’t immune to the downturn. Bricks-and-mortar chains like Maplin and the U.K. arm of Toys “R” Us Inc. collapsed earlier this year.

As the last weekend of Christmas shopping neared, stores slashed prices on a range of items to try to salvage sales. For some customers, accustomed to having to wait until after New Year’s for markdowns, the discounts came as a welcome surprise.

“It’s amazing,” said Chimere Girigari, 26, as she carried four coats among the racks at Forever 21. “I was just walking by and saw the ‘50 percent off’ so I came in.”

Here are five of the markdowns that show how stores are responding to the U.K.’s retail gloom:

Forever 21

Unusually warm weather this autumn prompted steep discounts on winter clothes. At Forever 21 Inc. that means jackets and coats are 50 percent off, both in store and online. Denim jackets were going for 16 pounds ($20) and a polyester faux-shearling jacket was marked down to 27.50 pounds from 55 pounds.

Moss Bros

The suit retailer Moss Bros Group Plc issued a profit warning earlier this year as it said an unseasonably warm summer kept customers away from purchasing fall suits. A gray Italian wool suit from Italian brand Cerruti is going for just under 100 pounds, about 75 percent off the original price.

JD Sports

While you’ll probably have to pay full price for a new pair of Nikes, sneaker retailer JD Sports Fashion Plc placed a big rack of discount shirts and jerseys as a lure at the entrance of the store. A youth German national soccer team jersey from Adidas was marked down 58 percent, to 20 pounds from 48 pounds at full price.

New Look

New Look Retail Group Ltd. closed dozens of stores earlier this year and left China as the retailer struggles to keep up with the shift to e-commerce. On London’s Oxford Street, bright magenta signs cling to racks and shelves offering up to 50 percent off thousands of items. A pair of red suedette stiletto-heel over-the-knee boots was on offer for 17 pounds, down about 60 percent.

Debenhams

This Christmas is crucial for the troubled department-store chain Debenhams Plc. Large signs at the flagship store advertise up to 50 percent off an array of womenswear, shoes and fragrances. A 200 milliliter (7-ounce) bottle of Calvin Klein One Shock for Her perfume was marked down 50 percent, to 29.50. It’s the same deal you can find on Amazon.com Inc.