Page last updated at 07:10 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Peacocks' prices pull in shoppers

By Kevin Leonard
BBC News website

Peacocks store in Queen Street, Cardiff
Peacocks recorded a large growth in sales over the Christmas period

While high street fashion stores struggle to maintain sales during the downturn, a Welsh-based clothing chain appears to be thriving.

The Peacock Group, which owns Peacocks and womenswear retailer Bonmarche, last week announced a huge growth in sales over the festive period.

The budget fashion outlet, whose headquarters is in Cardiff, recorded a 22% growth in like-for-like sales in the two weeks up to January 3.

Although a more modest 1% growth was recorded in the 14-week period leading up to that date, the group also opened 25 new stores from April to December.

Meanwhile, the more upmarket Next and Marks and Spencer both recorded falls in like-for-like sales in the months running up to Christmas.

Group chief executive, Richard Kirk, suggested shoppers were "trading down" from the "middle ground" to the cheaper end of the market.

Many of the steady stream of shoppers at Peacocks' Queen Street store in the centre of Cardiff were certainly quick to put a strong emphasis on price.

Akin Yusuff
I worked for Marks and Spencer - it's more expensive
Akin Yusuff

"It's quite cheap and it's good value for what you get. I just go in all the time, it's my number one shop," said 20-year-old Natalie Reis, who was out shopping with her husband.

"People want things now. You get your stuff there and all your accessories there, you don't have to go anywhere else."

The store itself certainly puts an emphasis on price, with signs in the front window tempting shoppers with discounts of up to 70%.

There were also racks inside the store selling clothes for 3 or under.

Akin Yusuff, 45, from Cardiff, who usually shops at a smaller Peacocks store in the Roath area of the city, said he liked the price and quality of the clothes.

"The first time I went there was for a black shirt which was quite good so I went to buy them for my children as well," he said.

"If I don't go to Peacocks, I go to Marks and Spencer. I worked for Marks and Spencer - it's more expensive."

Denise Harris, 50, from Penarth, who had been browsing in the Next shop opposite the store, said she did occasionally shop at Peacocks but put an emphasis on quality rather than price.

Tracey Highgate
I would say Peacocks keep up to date with the fashions but they keep it at a very reasonable price
Tracey Highgate

"I'm buying a lot less and I think people are buying less. Before, they would come out with bags of things," she said.

"I think it [Peacocks] attracts younger people more. My daughter goes in there but I suppose it depends what your budget is.

"I found a nice hoodie in there last summer and that was a real bargain."

Tracey Highgate, 42, who had just spent less than 10 on a variety of socks, said she would choose where to buy an outfit depending on the occasion.

"I would say Peacocks keep up to date with the fashions but they keep it at a very reasonable price," she said.

"If I was going out somewhere quite nice, I would go to Karen Millen or Howells but if I was looking for daywear, I would go to somewhere like Oasis or Peacocks."

Another reason for the store's success, according to 41-year-old Julie James from Bedwas near Caerphilly, is its appeal to the whole family.

"I've got a 15 and an 18-year-old and they will buy the clothes from there, as will my husband and he's a middle-aged frump!" she said.

"Even though it's not a well-known label, the kids will still wear it. If my son comes out with a Peacocks bag, he will put the bag in something else but he will still wear it!"

But while Peacocks attempts to maintain its growth in sales - a difficult task according to the company's chief executive - Mrs James offered some advice to attract new customers.

"The only thing I would say is they don't do the larger sizes. I don't buy clothes there very often because they don't fit me," she said.

The group now has 526 Peacocks stores with plans for a further 50 to open in the next two years, creating 750 jobs.

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