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Christmas boom - weather permitting

Retailers are nervously awaiting the final weekend of full trading before Christmas amidst worries that further snowfalls could once again affect sales. They should also be prepared for a last minute boom in online sales if shoppers are left stranded at home.

In its latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey this week 67% of retailers said that sales were higher than a year ago, while just 11% said they were lower, giving a balance of +56%, the highest figure since April 2002 (+57%).

Ian McCafferty, CBI chief economic adviser, said: “Sales on the high street continued to rise strongly compared with a year ago, reflecting a stronger crucial pre-Christmas trading period. However, December’s strong survey balance is also likely to capture spending being brought forward, ahead of the January increase in VAT.”

The ONS figures showed modest growth for November with the volume of retail sales in November up 1.1% compared to November 2009 and up 0.3% for the three months to November. The seasonally adjusted value of retail sales for November 2010 was 3.6 per cent higher than in November 2009 and up 2.7% for the three months to November 2010, compared to the same period a year ago.

In its stores last week John Lewis recorded an all time sales record of £121 million for the week ending 11 December 2010, up 10% on the same week last year and 16.7% on the previous week.
David Barford, director selling operations for John Lewis, said: “The thaw in the weather has no doubt helped, and shoppers have been out in force throughout the week.”

Online sales have boomed. According to IMRG and Retail Decisions online sales topped £291 million on 6th December ‘Mega Monday’ --up 21% on the previous year.

At John Lewis the retailer also recorded a record day with sales up 45% against last year.  IMRG has estimated that £6.4 billion will be spent online this month but retailers will have to ensure more than ever that they can meet their delivery promises in time for Christmas if there is a sudden late rush to buy online because of the snow.

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