David Prosser: Christmas sales melt away despite the thaw

Outlook The cost of the wintry weather of the past few weeks mounts by the day – a string of companies warned they had taken a hit yesterday, while M&S added its name to the list of businesses that now feel unable to commit to making deliveries in Scotland.

The question is whether these lost sales will come back once the country begins to thaw.

In some cases, the answer is an obvious no – Betfair, for example, warned of lost revenue because of cancelled race meetings, which will not be reorganised. Elsewhere, the picture is less clear: Christmas shopping has got off to a slow start, but maybe we'll see much stronger sales in the final week or so to compensate for this.

Unfortunately, the omens are not encouraging. Footfall figures published yesterday by Experian reveal that the weekend just gone was a huge improvement on the previous weekend in terms of the numbers of shoppers out and about. But its regional breakdown also reveals that in almost every area of the country, including places where the snow has melted, footfall was down on the corresponding weekend of last year. There is an awful lot of catching up still to be done.