High street could benefit at the expense of out-of-town shops if the bad weather continues
Retailers face a nail-biting conclusion to the golden quarter following forecasts of more wintry weather.
Further disruption could bring the total of lost sales in December to £1.68bn, consultancy Verdict estimates. However, total December spend is expected to hit £56bn
and many industry chiefs - especially those with extensive local store networks - expect Christmas to be solid.
The bad weather has particularly hit online shopping (see box, right) and some out-of-town parks.
Original Factory Shop chief executive Angela Spindler said she was confident because of the retailer’s value positioning, broad range and convenient locations. About 60% of its customers live within four miles of stores.
“The convenience element is working really well with this unpredictable weather,” she said. “The news around net deliveries feels like it’s pushing people back to more traditional ways of purchasing.”
Co-op chief executive Peter Marks said: “We’ve seen some benefit with the snow as shoppers turned to convenience stores. Ifwe get more bad weather that could continue.”
Research by GfK NOP showed the high street was expected to attract more shoppers over the final shopping fortnight than out-of-town or online.
But GfK NOP consumer expert Ivan Browne said there would not necessarily be a straight transfer of sales to the high street because of factors such as limited consumer choice, and that it too would suffer some effect from bad weather.
Iceland chief executive Malcolm Walker concurred: “The snow helped us a bit as more shoppers went to the high street [rather than out-of-town] but that’s counterbalanced slightly with shoppers just not being able to get out.”
The chief executive of one big non-food retailer said: “While some shoppers went online when the snow hit, we don’t expect to recover all the lost sales because online people tend to buy specific items and we don’t get associated sales like we do in stores. Unless we get a whitewash in the next week, we expect to be slightly up on last year.”
However, one fashion chief said: “We were rocking up until the snow. It was devastating. We can never make up not selling that volume of stock in the run-up to Christmas.”
Retailers with a heavy presence in the north and Scotland have been especially hit. London stores have escaped the worst of the problems.
Harvey Nichols chief executive Joseph Wan said: “Trading is strong in London. We think we will have a better Christmas than last year.”
of high street shoppers shop in the two weeks before Christmas
of out-of-town shoppers shop in the two weeks before Christmas
Snow hits online retail
Online sales have been hit by delivery problems because of the snow, especially in Scotland where retailers including Amazon, Marks & Spencer and Tesco either suspended deliveries or warned of delays.
Scottish Retail Consortium director Fiona Moriarty said: “People will rely on the high street rather than online - the high street has been extremely busy since the thaw.”
M and M Direct boss Steve Robinson said while there had been more web visits, it had been difficult to distribute catalogues. But he said: “I think [the snow] has benefited multichannel retailers most.”
John Lewis selling operations director David Barford said: “We’re in a fantastic position. What doesn’t go to clicks goes to bricks.”
Four wise men…
“Sales are strong and we are confident that we’ll be up on last year”
Malcolm Walker, Iceland
“The high street is unaffected - people are coming for work. out-of-town will struggle”
Neil Gillis, Blacks Leisure
“Trading is much as expected but the next few days are crucial”
Peter Marks, Co-operative Group
“With the level of markdowns, firms will struggle to exit the year in a good position”
Mike Shearwood, Aurora