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News - 6 December 2003

Brighton Retail Starts to Motor Too Late?

This week-end has at last seen retail spending start to take off after an agonisingly slow start. The question now is whether the lost ground can be made up or whether 2003 will be a disappointing Christmas especially for Brighton’s vitally important independent sector.

Nationally the pedestrian counting company Footfall announced a week on week increase of 7.9% which is 1.3 percentage points better than last year but this is the first week to show such an increase. The fact that some of the larger stores are already discounting (Debenhams and House of Fraser) is a testament to the nervousness in the sector. One or two more will make it compelling for all to follow suit.

However UK retailers are faring much better than their European counterparts. All the signs are that this will be the worst Christmas in large parts of Europe for nearly a decade. Eurozone retail sales fell by 0.6% in September. A Deloitte & Touche survey conducted in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland and Sweden indicates that the average shopper intends to spend 31% less this year. Worse still 70% said they would wait until the last minute to force retailers to start discounting. The high Eurozone unemployment rate (8.8%) is generally blamed for the reluctance of consumers to part with their money particularly since it is a full point higher than last year and still climbing

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