Retailers hope for festive sales boost
UK retailers are hoping for a late rush by festive shoppers.
08:03 18 December 2004
The UK's retailers are hoping for a late rush today, following disappointing seasonal sales.
Shops are hoping for a last-minute surge in the final week before Christmas as figures suggest sales are starting to pick up.
According to research retail group Footfall, shoppers have been playing 'chicken' with retailers and holding out for bargains. Many stores are already offering discounts and a boom in internet shopping has hit High Street sales hard.
FootFall, which monitors the number of shoppers in key shopping locations, recorded a 3.4 per cent increase in trade last week. Retailers make most of their money at this time of year.
Meanwhile, Richard Perks, a retail analyst at Mintel, pointed to a spate of "discount" day sales by leading retailers as evidence that it was proving hard to get shoppers to spend this year.
However, he predicted sales would still be up on last year, following a late rush to buy Christmas gifts.
"It is very tough out there," he said. "We are much more cautious because we're worried about interest rates, consumer debt and how the housing market has stabilised or fallen.
"But I don't think things are that bad with UK consumers. They are far worse in continental Europe."
"In times like this the good retailers do well," Mr Perks added. "It is the ones that fall short of what consumers want that get hammered. It really does sort out the good from the bad."
Figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested that retail sales rose by 0.6 per cent last month, following a 0.5 per cent dip in October. Sales reportedly increased in all sectors apart from several large toy stores and some sports shops.
However, a separate survey of 1,000 people by Switch/Maestro predicted that Britons would spend 400 million less on presents this Christmas. The study found that women planned to spend an average 12 less on gifts than last year and men 5 less.