Some sales lost due to the snow might be recouped, but its fanciful to think they all will be

It’s a very confused picture out there in retail world, and we won’t really know how things have panned out until well after Christmas when we get into trading update season and the official ONS and BRC numbers come out. John Lewis is the only retailer which publishes sales figures throughout the build-up to Christmas, but everything I’ve heard and seen suggests that it has outperformed the market this Christmas, and that its strong performance won’t be reflected across the high street as a whole.

Many purchases at Christmas aren’t discretionary, because everyone expects presents and to eat a Christmas lunch. And the last minute rush seen on many high streets suggests that many sales which would have been made in the past week but weren’t because of the snow have simply been deferred and will be made up in what are going to be an unusually busy last few days. It’s also clear that many online retailers have failed to come up with the goods meaning people have had to hit the high street in case their orders don’t come through.

But all the lost sales won’t be made up either pre-Christmas, or after Christmas. Here are two reasons why. Firstly, a lot of pre-Christmas purchases are discretionary, particularly in fashion where people can easily make do with outfits they already have if they can’t get out to the stores to buy a new one. This was an issue for Alexon, which yesterday announced like for likes down 20-odd percent over the past three weeks.

Also, when it’s hard to get out - and assuming you can get further than your local convenience store - it becomes a lot more tempting to do all the shopping in one place rather than traipse from store to store browsing. This, the owner of a good-sized homewares retailer told me this morning, has really played into the hands of the supermarkets at the expense of the non-food specialists.

So in summary, retailers should make up some of the sales lost due to the weather over what are bound to be a really hectic last couple of days. But they won’t make up all of them. Overall, it won’t have been a disastrous Christmas, but thanks to what’s been some really extraordinary weather, it’s certainly not going to have been a vintage one.