Published on 11 - January - 2011
Snow made tough Christmas worse, says BRCSnow hit sales in December, but winter products outperformed for DIY retailers despite the slow month, according to new figures from the BRC/KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
UK retail sales values fell 0.3% last month on a like-for-like basis compared with the same month last year, when sales rose 4.2%. On a total basis, sales were up 1.5% against a 6% increase in December 2009.
Snow disrupted sales patterns, meaning lost trade for some, with sales in DIY slower than usual as the weather disrupted shopping trips. However, grit, salt, snow clearance equipment, spot heating and plumbing repair products were all stronger than normal, and while snow and ice curtailed gardening, houseplants were popular gifts.
Home accessories sales worsened, said the report, while house textiles sales also fell further below their year-earlier level, despite the freezing temperatures boosting duvets and bedding. Kitchenware and floor care were brighter spots as consumers favoured essentials over discretionary and decorative items.
Sales of furniture and floorcoverings dropped further blow their year-earlier level, impacted by underlying consumer caution over big-ticket purchases, although new ranges, promotions and pre-Christmas delivery guarantees provided some help.
British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: "The unusually early winter weather made a difficult Christmas worse. With mounting concerns about the impact of spending cuts and the wider economy, sales growth has been weak since last summer. December was always likely to be similarly unspectacular but the snow and ice dealt an extra blow to business for many retailers.
"Catch-up shopping gave a big boost to the week just before Christmas and the post-Christmas clearances were strong for non-food retailing but neither was enough to replace every sale lost earlier in the month... This is no return to the dire picture two years ago, but the message for the Chancellor is: concentrate on delivering growth and leave any new burdens out of your March budget."
Malletts Home Hardware in Cornwall was one retailer who did manage to pull back sales lost due to the bad weather. Floor manager Ina Branchett told DIY Week: "Christmas was very good for us - it was very busy. The weather did affect us, November more than December, because of the snow, but having said that, in December we pulled quite a bit of it back anyway. Because of the weather, people ordered stuff online in November, and then when they weren't getting it because of the post backlog, they were coming in and buying things last minute. People were panic buying in the latter part of December."
For more retailer comments on Christmas trading, see the latest issue of DIY Week, out on Friday.
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