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Business News

Rainy November casts gloom on high street

The foul weather in late November decimated footfall across the high street, reinforcing the view that shoppers will leave their festive spending to the last minute this year.

The almost incessant recent rain in many areas led to underlying sales falling by 0.2 per cent last month, with fashion and homewares chains buffeted the most, according to the accountancy firm BDO's High Street Sales Tracker.

The BDO said that after a "strong start" helped by the school half-term holidays, demand for clothing was weak for the remainder of November. In fact, underlying fashion sales tumbled by 6.9 per cent in the final week of the month, compared to strong growth of 13.1 per cent in the first week.

The fall of 0.5 per cent in clothing sales over the month was mirrored in the homewares sector.

However, Don Williams, BDO's national head of retail and wholesale, urged retailers not to be "spooked by a poor November" and forecast the sector will witness some growth over the festive period: "People will not cancel Christmas. They are just following the trend of the Christmas period getting later every year thanks to extended opening hours and better online shopping services, and the atrocious weather has just given them another reason to delay their festive shopping."

With Christmas Day falling on a Tuesday, shoppers are expected to leave their shopping late this year.

Mr Williams forecast more administrations in the new year, following the recent collapse of the electricals chain Comet. He said: "We continue to believe that there is a high risk that we will see further failures in the first weeks of 2013 once the festive sales period is over."

Discounting on the high street has begun in earnest. The accountancy firm PwC found that 60 per cent of retailers were on sale or advertising promotions last week, 11 per cent on the previous week. The figure for last week compares with 54 per cent of retailers being on promotion at the same time last year.

Meanwhile, in some encouraging news for the high street, last week was John Lewis' third-best ever for its department store, with sales reaching £124.2m.