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Retail round up - The Weekend papers.

Big freeze throws shop sales into meltdown,Farmers warn snow could hit food supplies for Christmas,Christmas shoppers face 'postcode lottery' of prices in chain stores, Crackdown on companies guilty of sexualisation of children,Sir Philip Green's flagship Topshop forced to close in tax avoidance protest,British Chambers of Commerce get gloomier about growth, South Africans left divided as Walmart muscles its way in, HMV is dreaming of a strong Christmas...

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Retail round up - The Weekend papers.

The Telegraph.

The number of people shopping plunged by almost 50pc in some areas of the UK last week as snowy conditions deterred people from doing their Christmas shopping.The devastating fall in the number of Britons hitting the stores will have cost retailers tens of millions of pounds in lost sales at what should be their busiest time of year.The number of people shopping in Yorkshire and Humberside fell by 42pc between Monday and Thursday of last week, compared to the same week in 2009. Shopper numbers in Scotland fell by 36pc, while the number of people visiting the UK's regional shopping centres – such as Bluewater in Kent and Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex – fell by 33pc.Read the full article.

Retailer are not the only ones counting the cost of heavy snowfall, with farmers warning that food supplies could be hit over the Christmas period.Festive favourites such as brussels sprouts may become a rare commodity this year after vegetable farmers claimed the snow was costing them thousands of pounds in lost harvest.Peter Davies, who grows and imports vegetables in Lincolnshire, said the weather was having a "disastrous impact" on his business."I've been farming here for the last 18 years and it's the worst snow I've seen during this time," he told BBC Radio 4. "At the minute we're unable to cut any UK brassicas and are obliged to import from France, Italy and from Spain." Read the full article.

Christmas shoppers are being charged up to 80 per cent more for the same goods at different branches of chain stores, an investigation has revealed.High Street retailers are selling gifts, including toys, books, DVDs, perfume and knitwear, at prices that vary widely around the country – a practice which has been criticised by consumer groups.The investigation looked at 12 major retail chains, including John Lewis, Argos, HMV and WHSmith, and examined the prices they charged for five Christmas gifts.All had at least one item on sale at different prices in different store locations. Read the full article.

A new crackdown on television advertising, magazine images and clothing that leads to the sexualisation of children is to be unveiled within days by ministers.The Sunday Telegraph has learned a government-commissioned review, expected to be led by Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers' Union, will lay the ground for new laws which could see individual companies prosecuted.Mr Bailey's review will gather evidence of ways children are having unfair commercial pressure put on them or being "prematurely sexualised" by retailers amid protests over high-heeled shoes and provocative underwear aimed at girls as young as 10.Read the full article.

Britain's largest fashion store was forced to close on Saturday as activists carried out a series of protests against tax avoidance by big businesses.Topshop's flagship branch on London's Oxford Street turned away customers on one of the busiest shopping days of the year as around 200 protesters took over the store.Security staff removed a number of campaigners who chanted slogans directed at billionaire Topshop owner Sir Philip Green, whose business five years ago paid a £1.2 billion dividend to his wife, Tina, who resides in Monaco.Sir Philip was this year appointed as an adviser to the Government on efficiency in the public sector.Read the full article.

The Guardian
The British Chambers of Commerce will cut its short-term forecast for growth in Britain's faltering economy today, warning of fragility in household finances and tepid consumer spending as the coalition's austerity measures begin to bite.The employers' organisation, which represents 100,000 businesses across Britain, is downgrading its expectation for growth in 2011 from 2.2% to 1.9%, although it remains bullish about prospects further ahead.This lessening in economic confidence comes ahead of gloomy news from the country's largest supermarket chain, Tesco, which is likely to report sluggish sales as rival retailers slash prices in an effort to attract shoppers in the run-up to Christmas.According to the BCC, the rise in VAT to 20% next month and cuts in public spending are likely to dent consumer spending and business activity. The BCC expects unemployment to rise to 8% of the workforce, adding 150,000 to the 2.45 million already out of work.
Read the full article.

Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, is poised to enter the African market after bidding £1.6bn for South Africa's Massmart, but the country's trade unions are gearing up for a fight.The world's biggest retailer already has tills ringing across the Americas, Europe and Asia. Now the sprawling Arkansas-based discount megalith Walmart is trying its luck in Africa.South Africa's labour movement is bracing itself for its biggest campaign since its anti-apartheid heyday as it faces up to the likely arrival of Walmart – a company notorious for its anti-union tactics, with annual sales worth three times the country's budget.Only South Africa's Competition Commission now stands in the way of the US multinational entering Africa in the latest stage of a conquest of emerging markets that has already reached Mexico, Brazil and China.A week ago, the board of a local superstore group, Massmart, accepted Walmart's offer of 16.5bn rands (£1.6bn) for 51% of the company.Read the full article.

The Independent.
DVD and album-retailer HMV is one of the few big names reporting next week as the City winds down for Christmas.However, the festive season is the key time for retailers and HMV will be hoping for a strong performance, given that its like-for-like sales are forecast to decline across its main businesses in Thursday's interim results. Also next week, the Monetary Policy Committee is expected to keep interest rates at the historically low 0.5 per cent mark.

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