The fortunes of high street retailers are always linked to the weather to some extent, so it’s not a surprise that the freezing and snowy conditions of March 2013 caused footfall to drop 5.2% compared with the same period last year. The worst affected regions were in England, with the east Midlands and southwest suffering a drop of 8.1% and 7% respectively.
Notably, the out-of-town retailers were hit less badly, with footfall down by 4.2%. Larger shopping centres – which are often entirely indoors – were down just 2.4%. Centrally heated mega-shopping-complexes were always going to be the retail experience of choice when the weather outside was arctic.
It’s not all bad news, however. Despite smaller numbers of people venturing out for some retail therapy, those who did spent more than last year: overall sales in March were up 1.9% compared with last year. Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s director general, said: ‘The prolonged cold was the main culprit for deterring shoppers…[but] when people did venture out, they bought things.’
The dampening effects of the weather were felt more widely than retail, however. The Federation of Small Businesses chimed in with woe for SMEs more generally. It says that more than half of small firms it surveyed admitted that the cold weather had pushed down demand for products and services, and it reckons £174m was lost throughout the UK. That amounts to around £1,580 lost per firm.
Nonetheless, there is still hope (according to the Ernst & Young Item Club) that the economy will grow by 0.6% this year, and that consumer spending will rise 1.2% as well. According to the ever-reliable meteorologists, the worst of the crappy weather is over now, so let’s hope this brings a corresponding uptick in sales, eh?