Weather: Rain and wind subside to bring hope for the High Street

Ice warnings in place as rain and wind subside to bring hope for the High Street after Storm Deirdre kept Christmas shoppers at home

  • Yesterday’s inclement weather saw footfall in Britain’s shopping centres and high streets down by 7.3%
  • Shops will be hoping for a boon today with the improved weather – which will be bright for dry for many 
  • It comes after Storm Deirdre brought gales, heavy snow and freezing rain to large parts of the UK 

Retailers will be hoping Christmas shoppers venture out in greater numbers today after bad weather was blamed for contributing to a slump in footfall on Saturday.

Figures suggested the number of shoppers hitting UK high streets was down more than 9% compared with the same time last year, dealing a blow to struggling retailers relying on a festive bounce in sales.

On what is usually expected to be the peak trading weekend before Christmas, overall footfall for shopping centres and retail parks, combined with high streets, was down 7.3% up to 3pm on Saturday, retail intelligence experts Springboard said.

Brighter weather today should be a boon for Britain’s high streets, which saw footfall down by 7.3% up to 3pm on Saturday due to the inclement weather. Pictured are people walking on the River Thames path next to Tower Bridge this morning 

Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol was busy with shoppers this morning, but business was disrupted by a climate change ‘die-in’ protest 

However, after Storm Deirdre brought gales, heavy snow and freezing rain to large parts of the UK, the weather on Sunday is expected to be more favourable to those heading out to shop.

Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge said: ‘Everywhere will be drier and much less windy on Sunday.

‘Just be wary if you are heading out early, there could be some icy stretches in the north-east of England and Scotland.

‘Other than that, just be aware if you are in England and Wales, there could be spells of rain and wind in the afternoon. If you didn’t head out to the shops yesterday, you could get most of it done today.’  

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Forecaster Steven Keats added that there was a ‘reasonable amount of uncertainty’ about the weather leading up to Christmas, with rain at times but also sunny intervals. He said any significant snowfall was unlikely. 

Despite the generally more positive outlook, the Met Office said Britain could be hit by gales of up to 60mph on Tuesday.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: ‘If people are presented with really terrible weather, they then have the choice to shop online, and they can make other choices about what to do with their time.

‘That unfortunately offers them sometimes better alternatives than trailing around a town centre or a high street in freezing cold or rainy weather.’

It was a beautiful start to the day at this country park in Cobham, Kent. Met Office forecasters said conditions will be better today after the passing of Storm Deidre, which was still lingering this morning over parts of northern Scotland 

Ms Wehrle said while footfall appeared to have picked up for the early part of the week – with a year-on-year increase of 6.1% in high streets, shopping centres and retail parks – it was a false positive as snow last year meant figures were already low.

She said Saturday’s figures were ‘severely down’ on last year, on what she described as a ‘peak trading weekend’.

Many shoppers may not venture out next weekend as it is so close to Christmas Day, she added, saying they could have already travelled to wherever they are spending the holidays, and may feel discouraged by unfavourable weather forecasts.

Predicting a difficult week ahead, she added that retailers will have been hoping for a last festive lift after what has been a difficult year.

Figures in September showed the UK to be suffering its worst year on record as in-store sales declined for the eighth month in a row.

The bargain bonanza of Black Friday last month also disappointed, with data showing the biggest drop in footfall for that week in three years.

Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge said: ‘Everywhere will be drier and much less windy on Sunday.’ Pictured: A row of illuminated by the morning sun at a country park in Cobham, Kent

Ms Wehrle said the trend now to discount items before Christmas and having sometimes all-year-round sales affects buyers’ attitudes towards price drops.

‘We have come to expect discounts,’ she said. ‘By the time we get to Christmas we’ve seen 20% off, we’ve seen 30% off, we’ve had Black Friday.’

Rachel Lund, head of insights and analytics at the British Retail Consortium, presented a more positive picture, suggesting shoppers may still turn out for the final few days before December 25.

She said: ‘While we have seen a slow start to the Christmas period, changing technology and shopping habits means that many consumers will be leaving their shopping to the last week before Christmas – historically the most important for retailers.

‘Nonetheless, given the challenging year on the high street, retailers will be hoping for strong sales this weekend and next as consumers buy both food and presents before Christmas Day.’

The rising sun glints off the surface of a lake at a country park in Cobham, Kent, where conditions were much improved following yesterday’s washout 

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