The third of the weekly ‘countdown to Christmas’ reports from Synovate Retail Performance showed the number of people out shopping in non-food stores in the UK was seven per cent lower than over the corresponding week of 2008 against a forecast of a rise of 3.7 per cent.
London and the South East suffered worst as retail traffic levels for the week stood 11.7 per cent lower than the previous year. However, across the country as a whole, week-on-week shopper numbers were up by 7.6 per cent compared to the week commencing December 6th.
Synovate’s Dr Tim Denison explained: “Christmas shoppers were badly caught out by the weather in parts of the country last week. It seems that droves of people were simply put off venturing out in the snow and ice and retailing was one of the main casualties."
It is likely that the drop is due to the poor weather rather than a fall in consumer confidence. Indeed, the extent and depth of discounting is significantly down on this time last year, implying that shoppers, whilst fewer in numbers last week, were still buying strongly.
Denison continued: “There is simply no hard evidence to suggest that pre-Christmas demand has peaked, nor that people have completed their gift shopping early; quite the contrary in fact.
"For many of us, we are now in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation, whereby our plans to leave shopping to the final weekend might have been seriously foiled by Mother Nature."