Last month wasn’t a good one for the high street. As wage freezes and rising unemployment put the thumb screws on consumer spending, retail sales volumes in May were 0.6% down on the previous month, and 1.6% down on the same month last year. Admittedly this last quarter was slightly better than the one before, but it’s clear that the high street isn’t out of the woods yet. The good news for fashion-savvy punters is that this is forcing retail brands to take radical steps – one of which might soon allow you to get your hands on a pair of cheap Jimmy Choos…
Everyone knows that the recession has produced a flight to value – budget retailers have cashed in at the expense of the mid-market shops. But it hasn’t been plain sailing for luxury brands either, which is presumably why Jimmy Choo is taking the novel step of producing a high street range. The iconic British shoemaker, which normally flogs its £400 shoes in exclusive boutiques and high-end department stores, has agreed to launch a line for Swedish chain H&M, with prices ranging from £40 to £180. Hardly Primark prices, but still much cheaper than a regular Jimmy Choo croc-skin boot, which will leave a £2,000 shaped hole in your credit card account (not to mention the crocodile).
H&M, the world’s third largest retailer, hasn’t been immune from the high street malaise – its like-for-like sales were down 5% in the first quarter. However, things perked up in April thanks to the launch of its new Matthew Williamson designer line on April 23, which helped sales jump 8%. After scoring notable successes with other designer lines (including Stella McCartney, whose 2005 launch provoked handbags at dawn as crowded shoppers fought over coats), it’s clearly hoping the Choo tie-up will provide a similar boost to sales. The new range will be launched in 200 stores nationwide in November. Expect long queues, and possibly fisticuffs.
Speaking of accessible luxury, Germany has just seen the launch of the first gold vending machine. Customers can buy a 1g gold wafer for €30, a 10g bar for €245, or gold coins. A prototype vendor has been set up at Frankfurt airport by TG-Gold-Super-Markt, with plans to operate 500 more. Retail demand for gold soared to 108 tonnes in 2008, up from 36 tonnes in 2007, as investors sought a safe haven for their money. Mr T would be delighted.
In today's bulletin:
Goodwin offers to reduce pension pot as borrowing soars
BA pilots' union agrees to swap salary for shares
H&M looks to buck retail slump with designer Choos
Why unemployment has a six-month shelf-life
Race to improve diversity bearing fruit