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December 17, 2010

High-street to benefit from delayed Christmas spending

The snowy weather earlier this month has delayed Christmas shopping this year, providing retailers with an opportunity to capitalise on a last-minute spending spree, Barclays has said.

Research from Barclays predicts that total consumer spending over the Christmas period will reach £48.9 billion – an 8 per cent rise on last year. The survey also found three-quarters of money spent on debit cards this Christmas will be high-street sales, with just a quarter spent online.

Barclays director of current accounts, Dan Wass, said that many customers have left their Christmas shopping late this year, due to bad weather conditions with sales expected to peak on 23 December.

“The early snow this month meant that the start of December was a little quieter on the high street than expected,” he said. “This is likely to put even greater pressure on retailers as we draw to the end of the Christmas countdown, with customers being forced to do their shopping at the last minute.”

Founder of marketing consultancy Flourish, Fiona Humberstone, said that smaller retailers could ensure they get their share of the spending by offering incentives.

“It’s easy to think it is too late now, but small shops should be making the most of the last-minute rush,” she said.

“For example, they could also organise an event with mince pies and mulled wine, or offer vouchers for the New Year if they spend over a certain amount. Small retailers should send an email out to their customers to let them know what they are doing.”

However, the predicted late boom in sales may be dampened by further bad weather, as the Met Office has forecast snow for much of the UK between 20 and 29 December.

“Some retailers will be badly affected by the snow in the run-up to Christmas, and will not do as well as they had hoped,” said Humberstone.

But she added that some retailers would benefit from further bad weather. “Some high-street retailers could actually use the snow to their advantage,” she said. “Customers are going to be scared that if they order something online, it won’t actually get there on time, so it’s a good opportunity for retailers with stores. Local shops could also capitalise on the weather if people are struggling to get into town centres.”