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Arctic weather puts Christmas shopping on hold

Snow hits sales, but shoppers will return in force next weekend

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Arctic weather puts Christmas shopping on hold

Britain’s big freeze has put the brakes on high street sales growth as shoppers stay at home rather than brave the icy conditions.While the arrival of cold weather has brought the traditional spike in seasonal purchases – fashion sales are up 2.8% year-on-year according to figures released today by BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker – growth is lower than comparable figures from this time last year.

After a bumper summer of sales growth, fashion retailers were expecting the traditional rush of winter clothing purchases and Christmas shopping. But the heavy snowfall and resulting travel chaos put paid to that.

The weather has hit online sales too, with people unwilling to risk getting orders lost in a backlog of deliveries stacked up while delivery vehicles are confined to depots. Though non-store year-on-year growth is still 27.6%, this is against the November 2009 growth of 39.2%.

Non fashion sales have also been hit hard as shoppers postponed festive purchases. Gifting was November’s worst performing category, while health and beauty was also below par.

The only sector to exceed expectations was the homeware sector (3.6% growth). Positive sales were reported across home furnishings in particular, with consumers splashing out on big ticket items to beat January’s VAT rise.
Retailers are now gearing up for a busy early-December.

“The weather has put people off shopping, but it’s come so early consumers still have time to do their Christmas shopping,” says BDO head of retail Don Williams. “This weekend would normally be the big weekend for festive purchases, but most people will wait until the snow has cleared before returning to the high street. Retailers will be nervous, but the fact we’ve had this snowfall at the end of November rather than mid-December means they won’t have to panic discount.”

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