Retailers hope snow won't spoil their biggest weekend

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Shoppers are forecast to spend £4bn on Christmas presents this weekend, the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

Retailers are hoping snow will not prevent consumers from splashing the cash following a tough year on the high street. Last December spending fell by 3.3 per cent to £24bn as consumers became concerned at the prospect of losing their jobs.

Earlier this week, the CBI said sales in December were up for the third month in a row, but the majority of retailers still thought sales were poor for the time of year. Fears were also raised by official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which showed an unexpected fall in November sales, the first decline for six months.

However Richard Dodd, media director of the British Retail Consortium, said that despite the problems shops were hopeful of a better Christmas than last year.

“I think retailers will be quietly optimistic that this weekend and the week to come and Christmas as a whole will be up on last year but that is partly because last year was so poor with sales down on the year before. But there’s also a sense that consumers are a bit more positive and confident than they were last year and more willing to spend.”

On an average month British consumers spend around £20bn in the shops but the BRC predicts £4bn will be spent on Saturday and Sunday alone. “It’s clearly going to to be biggest shopping weekend of the year. It’s a very important weekend for retailers considering how tough it’s been over the last year. One of the big problems potentially is if we get widespread snow it may put people off from going out shopping, or stop them from going out shopping, and that would undermine the retail figures.”

Britain’s biggest department store chain, John Lewis, is expecting a rush of shoppers. “We are expecting a busy day in our shops and online,” said Nat Wakely, its Director of Selling Operations. “Customers are likely to be making final preparations for Christmas at home and buying gifts across our whole assortment including beauty, toys, consumer electronics and fashion.

“Some customers will be looking for a few stocking fillers to finish off their Christmas shopping. Others will be starting from scratch.”

According to TNS, shoppers are turning to ‘practical gifts’ this year. The market research company said the popularity of clothing as a gift for men suggested that women were concerned with both practicality and ensuring their partners maintained their looks in public.

Knitwear and casual tops are particularly popular this year, with sales increasing by 27 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.