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COVID-19 prompts surge in fashion discounting

Tom Bottomley
25 March 2020

Year-on-year price comparisons show UK fashion retailers are discounting stock at “unprecedented levels” since the COVID-19 crisis hit, according to data and analysis from

The strict lockdown measures for “non-essential retail” have put many fashion businesses in jeopardy, especially those without an online presence, but even those which do have an e-commerce business to partially fall back on are being forced to slash prices earlier in the season like never before.

Many would say, SS20 was already looking tough before the outbreak really took hold, and retailers had already started to discount. But that is now rapidly escalating. helps consumers shop the online sales through one website,  tracking more than 6m full-price and discounted products across 1,000-plus global retailers. It said that between 19-25 March, 2020, the number of products discounted online increased by 21% compared to the previous week and by 40% compared to the same period last year.

Some categories fared worse than others, and discounts have been particularly large in footwear and accessories. In the seven-day period to today, 25 March, men's footwear discounts rose 30% on the week and 31% on the year. Women's footwear discounts grew to an even bigger 34% on the week, and 39% on the year. And discounts on women's accessories rose 31% compared to the previous week and a massive 71% year-on-year.

Footfall from Sunday 15 March to Saturday 21 March fell by -21.7% week on week, and -28% year-on-year.Retailers are therefore looking to online sales to mitigate the unprecedented drop in high street custom, with cashflow being a primary focus.

Stuart McClure, founder of, commented: “Retailers are facing an unprecedented situation right now. One that could put them out of business. They’re seeing immediate drops in footfall in stores, meaning they’re seeing an accompanying sales shortfall. This will lead to an increase in excess inventory. Combine this with late deliveries of products intended to be sold this season, and they’re facing major inventory surplus issues later in the year.

“These unseasonably high volumes of discount are intended to drive spend and clear stock. However, retailers need to start considering new ways to solve what will become an even bigger issue for them throughout 2020 and into 2021.”

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