Retailers are in the habit of blaming the weather when things don’t go to plan, but this Christmas it’s a genuine excuse.

Retailers are in the habit of blaming the weather when things don’t go to plan, but this Christmas it’s a genuine excuse. As Retail Week went to press the country was braced for more cold weather and heavy snow, which would be disastrous as retailers try to make up lost sales from the bad weather we’ve already had.

Shoppers will find ways of buying their presents but, if the forecasts come to pass, the quiet confidence with which most retailers approached December may be dashed. The problems of the past week in Scotland - with many retailers refusing to take orders for Christmas delivery - show the frailties of online retailing when it comes to fulfilment haven’t disappeared completely.

Although the weather affects everyone there will still be winners and losers. Announcements over the past two weeks have highlighted the massive structural challenges facing some of the best established retailers including HMV, Game, JJB and Comet, which we examine in more detail this week (p18).

It’s becoming clear that even with strong management and a clear strategy, the pace of change in markets such as entertainment is such that the best which can be done is to run fast just to stand still. But while the pressure will be on these retailers more than most, the unexpected intervention of the weather means this is going to be a white-knuckle Christmas for everyone in retail.

Keep informed online

This is the last issue of Retail Week before our Christmas break. Retail Week returns in print on January 7, but there will be a full offer of Retail Week news and analysis online both next week in the final run-up to Christmas, and between Christmas and new year as the January 4 VAT increase draws close. As always, subscribers get full access to all our online services free so if you’ve not yet activated your online subscription there’s no better time.

It’s been quite a year for Retail Week, with the launch of our data service Retail Week Knowledge Bank, the biggest ever Oracle Retail Week Awards, and a series of exclusive scoops such Dalton Philips’ appointment as Morrisons boss. We look forward to building on this in 2011.

Thanks to all our subscribers and advertisers for your support in 2010, and from all of us here at Retail Week, our very best wishes for a successful and - as much as it can ever be for retailers - relaxing Christmas.