Bad tidings: Christmas cheer predicted to be in short supply on the high street

Profits hit by online shopping and consumer debt
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The Independent Online

Fears are growing that the high street is in for a tough Christmas - the most important time of year for nearly all retailers - after a report revealed a slide in profits across the sector.

Research from Group 1 Software showed that retailers had seen average profits per customer fall by 6.5 per cent over the past year to £50.90. Group 1 attributed the decline to strong competition, especially from websites. Record levels of consumer debt mean retailers will be dealt a further blow if interest rates rise next month as widely predicted.

"We're expecting people to buy presents and enjoy themselves," said Clive Black, retail analyst at Shore Capital. "If you've got a decent pension and paid off your mortgage, Christmas will be OK. But if you've got lots of credit card debts, a mortgage, children, it's going to be tough.

"It certainly won't be a bumper [Christmas]. There will be some surprises, and some [retailers] will have a shocker."