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Big freeze prompts one in four shoppers to switch from High Street to online

The recent ‘Big Freeze’ across the UK has had a significant impact on the shopping habits of the nation; with half of the adult population staying away from the shops, and more than one in four (27%) switching an intended High Street purchase to online, according to new research carried out by GfK NOP.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Big freeze prompts one in four shoppers to switch from High Street to online

The research is mixed news for retailers during the crucial January sales period. On a positive note, an encouraging 39% of shoppers have simply deferred the purchase of non-essential items until the weather improves – pointing to a possible surge in High Street footfall in the weeks to come. Less encouragingly, more than one in five shoppers who had planned to shop during early January – in most cases to take advantage of the seasonal sales - have now decided against making their purchases, resulting in lost revenues on the High Street.

Ivan Browne, a Director at GfK NOP, comments: “The weather conditions during the first two weeks of 2010 have undoubtedly had a significant effect on the fortunes of the High Street during the crucial January sales period, and while we predict a possible late surge due to the amount of shoppers deferring purchases, it’s clear that the Big Freeze has dampened the spirits of many who were planning to buy. On the upside, the quarter of shoppers switching from the High Street to the internet is a sign of the times and great news for online retailers.”

Amongst the hardy UK public who ‘shopped as normal’ during the snow and ice, attitudes towards the January sales were mixed; with an equal amount expressing ‘disappointment’ by the sales as admitting to ‘finding great bargains’.

Overall since Christmas, according to the research, 54% of the UK public have been ‘sale shopping’; with clothes, home wares, small electrical items and entertainment products (music, games, video etc.) all high on the list. A bargain hunting 13% of the UK public have taken the opportunity of the sales to start shopping for Christmas 2010; while an even more savvy 9% have held out to buy Christmas 2009 gifts for those friends and family where they could “delay” gifting purchases.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months; there are signs that the public’s view on their own economic fortunes is starting to thaw slightly, notably (and reflecting yesterday’s unemployment figures) a fall of 5% since February 2009 (from 21% to 16%) in the proportion of people who are concerned they may lose their job in the next 6 to 12 months.

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