Winter chill keeps consumers at home and hits UK retailers hard


Plummeting winter temperatures have undeniably left their mark on retail spending in Britain. The number of new shoppers filling their baskets in January has fallen by 3.3% as snow and adverse weather conditions kept many consumers away from the UK high streets.


The figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Springboard monitor revealed that the shop vacancy rate rose by a figure of 10.9% year-on-year, as the high street continued to feel the full force of the stuttering economy.


Worst high street performance figures in 3 years


The research also highlighted that declining new shopper numbers have led to the worst performance on the high street in three years.


Out-of-town retail parks and shopping centres also recorded a higher than average decline in footfall. The total footfall figures fell by 7.2% (retail parks) and 5.2% (shopping centres) respectively, as difficult road conditions prevented many shoppers from making longer journeys.


Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reflected the BRC’s findings, showing that sales volumes fell by a surprising figure of 0.6% last month. This was largely attributed to the largest month-on-month drop in food sales since May 2011.


The fall in shopper numbers came amidst a contraction of 0.3% in UK GDP in the final quarter of 2012. This has sparked fears that Britain’s economy could be heading towards a triple-dip recession if a further contraction is recorded in Q1 2013.


While footfall was on a downward trend across the UK in January, with an average fall of 4.6%, BRC figures show that some regions were affected more than others.


The north and Yorkshire were the worst hit at a decline of 8.3%, followed by the East Midlands (6.5%), Scotland (4.6%), Wales (2.8%), the south-east (2%) and Northern Ireland (1.4%).


Greater London was the region most sheltered from a fall in shopper numbers, recording a drop in footfall of 1.1%.


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