The majority of retailers feel Christmas will be no worse than last year, despite the financial pressures of the last twelve months and the recent disruptive snowfalls. That might not be the same for the independents!
The British Retail Consortium’s (BRC’s) Christmas Trading Snapshot Survey published on Monday 13 December shows almost two thirds of retail businesses responding expect sales to be the same or better than last Christmas (same 29%, better 35%), although 36% are braced for figures to be down. Stores are offering exceptional numbers of promotions and discounts to customers, 41% providing more than last year.
Seventy one per cent of retailers think the January rise in VAT to 20% means customers are bringing forward purchases, and more than eight out of ten expect the VAT change to have a negative impact on sales in January.
However, many small independent shops are already struggling with decreased trade throughout the year leading to an expectation that December sales will be the same. Two days of lost trade due to snow for small shops can be disastrous and more is forecast.
Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said, “It’s reassuring to see a majority of retailers believe Christmas sales will be at least as good as last year even if a third say they will be worse. But, considering inflation is now at 3.2%, growth of anything less than that would be a real-terms fall.
“Promotions have hit a new level of intensity, retailers believe the next VAT rise is bringing sales forward and Christmas is usually a time when people spend despite their economic worries but ultimately December could prove to be the ninth month in a row of weak year-on-year growth.”
Nevertheless, some smaller traders in Brighton are anxious that further disruption due to bad weather could tip the scales too far in the wrong direction and leave them with a loss overall.
BUSINESS FORUM COMMENT
There are some important lesson to be taken from the last two years of Christmas trading:
- It is essential to have an online presence of some sort, ideally one that is e-commerce enabled so that trading need not be interrupted because of snow.
- It is important to order stock for Christmas well in advance and have it delivered before the very cold weather sets in (before mid November) as snow could restrict critical deliveries.
- Be prepared to salt, sweep and shovel to keep pavements clear of snow and ice.
- Be prepared to open earlier and stay open later than usual in the immediate run up to Christmas when people are desperate to buy last minute gifts and forgotten items.
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British Retail Consortium