In January, the British Retail Consortium declared 2018 the worst Christmas since the financial crash in 2008. Sales were flat, with year-on-year growth sitting at 0%. In-store sales were down while online growth slowed. Consumer spending overall was up just 1.8%, the lowest rate since March 2016. That has led to profit warnings, disappointing sales and in the worst instance HMV going into administration for the second time. But all in all it could have been much worse. And amid the darkness there have been a few glimmering beacons of hope, largely thanks to last minute Christmas shopping and online sales. High street hope Let’s start with the bright spots on the high street. Like-for-like sales at John Lewis were up 1% after the department store stuck to its usual blockbuster spot and splashed lots of dosh on a 140-second ad about Elton John (The Boy & The Piano by Adam&EveDDB). The main campaign video racked up 50 million views on social media – 16% more than last year’s Moz the Monster campaign. Heavy discounting around Black Friday and in the run-up to Christmas no doubt played its part in the sales uplift, which simultaneously led to John Lewis issuing a profit warning for the year ahead as it is forced to price match due to its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ price promise. Commercial over emotional Marks & Spencer, with its “unashamedly commercial” approach, had the opposite outcome, with like-for-like sales across food, and clothing and home down 2.1% and 2.4% respectively but no warning on profit. In spite of the sales dip, it claims the product focus paid off and that customers “responded...
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