Bullish Spanish retailers bring forward their winter sales

Major chains and department stores are “optimistic” and expect to hire temporary staff

Many chain stores and shopping centers throughout Spain have already begun cutting prices ahead of the winter sales that traditionally do not start here until January 7. Department stores and large chains are “optimistic,” given that for the first time since 2012, the sales season kicks off on a weekend. The experts say large stores will take on new staff, while small shopkeepers have signaled a warning about the growing trend of price reductions and promotions throughout the year.

Christmas shoppers in Madrid.
Christmas shoppers in Madrid.Samuel Sanchez (EL PAÍS)

Since the government liberalized the retail sector in 2012, shops have been allowed to use the term Rebajas (Sale) when they wish. Larger chains have jumped on board the trend of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other similar campaigns to offer discounts to attract shoppers. This allows them to clear out end-of-line stock when new models are introduced. Discounting is also seen as a way to attract new customers.

With the notable exception of Zara and other stores within the Inditex stable of fashion retailers, which will not begin their sales until January 7, most other major outlets, such as El Corte Inglés, Cortefiel, H&M, Mango and Springfield, along with many others, have already begun offering discounts in their shops and online. Amazon, one of the main online retailers, has been offering fashion and sports goods at reduced prices since December 29.

Spain’s small businesses have called for “serious thought about the discount periods”

ANGED, the organization that represents Spain’s large stores, says it is “optimistic” and is expecting “a particularly good first weekend of the sales.” Its members include El Corte Inglés, Spain’s leading department store, along with Spanish fashion house Cortefiel, and international players such as Fnac, Ikea and Media Markt. ANGED bases its optimism on the fact that January 7 is a Saturday, and that, with the exception of the Basque Country, stores throughout Spain will be open on Sunday, January 8. Global retail analytics provider Shopper Trak forecasts a 25% increase in the number of people visiting malls this weekend in Spain.

The general mood of optimism extends to fashion retailers, which are particularly active at year’s end, when many new collections are introduced. ACOTEX, the Association of Textile and Accessories Businesses, predicts a 5% increase in purchases during the winter sales, which have also begun in many shops, while others will wait until Saturday.

Retailers are hoping the winter sales will make up for a “bad” year characterized by political uncertainty and adverse weather. More than 93,000 people are expected to be hired during the sales season, 6% more than last year, says temporary employment agency Adecco. A survey by Randstad predicts that more than 130,000 people will be hired by stores in the coming days.

The larger chains have joined the trend of campaigns to attract shoppers

The Spanish Confederation of Small Businesses (CEC), forecasts a 3% increase in purchases during this year’s winter sales compared to last year. Most of the smaller shops are reluctant to begin their sales early, but many have found themselves joining in the trend. The CEC has called for “serious reflection about the discount periods.”

Manuel García-Izquierdo, the president of the CEC, has called for a more regulated approach to the growing trend of price reductions and discounts throughout the year.

Carlos Ballesteros, a lecturer in marketing and consumer behavior at the ICADE business school says: “They [sales] are less effective when each runs into the next. In the long term it is prejudicial,” adding that many shoppers now take advantage of the sales to buy presents for January 6, known in Spain as Reyes, or Epiphany, still the traditional day when presents are given.

"The result is that purchases are brought forward, but not increased," says Ballesteros.

English version by Nick Lyne.


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