Christmas rush finally begins?

The UK finally took to the high street this weekend, with 9% more of us hitting the shops than at this time last year. Could there be some light at the end of the tunnel for retailers?

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

According to Experian’s FootFall index, which monitors shopper numbers, shops got nearly 4% more visitors on Saturday than on the same day in 2006. And on Sunday, the jump was even more marked, at nearly 9%. Retailers worried about declining consumer confidence have been cutting their prices to lure in some more trade – and it seems to have done the trick.

‘The month-long waiting game between consumers and the high street finally came to an end this weekend,’ said Experian’s Martin Davies. ‘Following two washout weekends, retailers finally gave in last week and launched extensive pre-Christmas sales.’

Of course, it remains to be seen whether these extra shoppers actually bought anything while they were in there. Perhaps it was just colder than last year, so they needed to go in for a warm.

For retailers, the picture’s likely to be a mixed one. Boosting customer numbers is obviously good news – but in many cases, they’ve had to slash prices to get them in. That’s going to hurt margins. And even if people have been buying, it’s probably too late to make up for the drop in sales in recent weeks.

One thing’s for sure – some retailers are really feeling the pain at the moment. Take The Character Group – the UK toy maker said this morning that revenues would be 18% lower than the last year, sending its share price plunging 45%. The company, which makes Scooby-Doo, Doctor Who, Spider Man and Robosapien toys under licence, has been hit hard by slower-than-expect sales.

When a toy-maker can’t sell toys in the run-up to Christmas, you know that things aren’t looking too healthy...

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