UK retailers expect moderate build-up until Christmas amid freezing weather and strikes | Retail business

The UK retail sector is bracing for a smooth end to the Christmas shopping season as bad weather and strikes take a greater toll on consumers whose spending is already under pressure due to the rising cost of life.

Analysts at data firm Springboard said they expected the number of shoppers in retail destinations across the UK to rise 4.5% in high streets, 5 % in retail parks and 10% in shopping centers in December compared to November. However, these increases in attendance would be lower than in previous years.

UK retailers have already reported weaker than expected sales ahead of Christmas. On Friday, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the amount spent on retail in Britain fell 0.4% in November, against a forecast of a 0.3% rise by the industry analysts.

Prospects for sales picking up in December to make up lost ground were likely hampered by a cold spell and a series of rail strikes in Britain last week. Further strikes are planned, including one by Network Rail staff from 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Some online retailers are also likely to be hit by strikes, with 115,000 Royal Mail workers set to begin a two-day strike over pay, jobs and conditions on Friday until Christmas Eve.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, a consultancy, said November’s sales decline came as “consumers tightened their belts in the face of soaring prices”.

“We expect further weakness from the snow and a further blow to real incomes,” he added, with rising energy costs a major factor in reducing disposable incomes for consumers. households.

Amarveer Singh and Maria Nurgaziyeva, analysts at Creditsights, a debt rating agency, wrote: “December should see more Christmas shopping support for food and non-food retail, although cold weather and strikes ongoing railways should put a stop to it. .”

Inflation means consumers get less for their money. Singh and Nurgaziyeva said November sales in pound value were up 14% from February 2020 – before the UK’s first pandemic lockdowns – but the volume of goods sold was 0.7% lower.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Despite huge cost pressures, retailers are doing everything they can to keep prices affordable for all their customers. But the cost of living crisis means that many families could backtrack on their festive plans.

Diane Wehrle, director of information at Springboard, said the increase in Christmas attendance would be “more moderate than in previous years”.

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