Och, no: Snow puts deep freeze on Scottish sales

Tesco, Sainsbury's and others have cancelled deliveries in Scotland. Won't help those Christmas retail sales figures...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Where rivals have failed to slow Tesco's march towards global domination, perhaps the forces of nature will succeed: the world’s third-largest retailer said today that its online shopping site won’t take any new orders from customers in Scotland until it has managed to clear its existing backlog - which probably won't be before Christmas. Others are having similar trouble. With retailers already nervous about what the coming months will bring, could the expected bad weather this week make things even worse?

It’s not just Tesco having problems with the icy weather: Sainsbury’s has also cancelled deliveries in Scotland, as has Parcel Force, while Amazon and online retailer Firebox have both said next-day delivery ‘isn’t guaranteed’ at the moment. Liverpool-based courier firm Yodel says it’s got a 14-day backlog of parcels. So anyone hoping to get their Christmas presents under the tree before the 25th may as well rely on Santa’s reindeer...

And it could be a double whammy for retailers. According to the British Retail Consortium, shaky consumer confidence is already affecting how its members feel about the next few months. Opinion seems to be split over the prospects for Christmas: 36% say trading over the Christmas period is going to be tougher than last year, while 35% said it’s going to be better and 29% said it will be about the same.

However, any optimism is strictly time-limited: 71% said this rise in spending could be down to the VAT rise, which is encouraging consumers to buy sooner, rather than later. So when the rise (from 17.5% to 20%) comes in at the beginning of January, such behaviour might stop rather abruptly. So even if retailers have a merry Christmas, they may not have a happy New Year.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson insists he’s encouraged by the figures; the fact that a majority of retailers think this Christmas will be at least as good as last year is ‘reassuring’, he says. Then again, he also pointed out that if growth is any slower than inflation (currently running at 3.2%), it would actually amount to a fall in real terms. And, with more snow on its way this week to potentially disrupt sales, that's by no means impossible.

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