White Christmas blues
The Retail Traffic Index (RTI) - a measurement of non-food footfall in the UK produced by market researcher Synovate - for December 2010 was down seven percent on the same period a year ago as the weather and government austerity convinced shoppers to stay at home.
"Heavy snowfall throughout the month at different times in different regions played havoc with shoppers in December," said Synovate's Dr Tim Denison. Synovate had forecast a 4.2 percent year-on-year decline.
"Retailers had high hopes that the impeding 2011 VAT increase combined with creative and competitive promotional campaigns would encourage people to make the most of the lower tax rate and the money in consumers' pockets before the year end." Clearly they're not as stupid as retailers hoped.
"The very fact that the wintry weather continued in many parts of the country beyond the cut-off deadlines of on-line retail sites also suggests that the deficit of footfall on the high streets will not have been reconciled by website traffic. It is a bad outcome for retailers, a bad outcome for shoppers and a bad outcome for the UK economy, just at the wrong time."
The week after Christmas turned out to be the busiest of the year, with Tuesday 28th the busiest day of that week. It seems people are increasingly buying for themselves in the sales. Saturday 11 December was the busiest day of the year, with Synovate opining that a temporary break in the weather encouraged shoppers to venture forth. The RTI for the whole year was down 3.6 percent.