High streets hang on last-minute Christmas shopping, say retail experts

Enduring bad weather has led to a fall in shoppers hitting the high street, retail experts have warned.
New figures, published by research group Springboard, suggest that footfall on the high street is nine per cent lower compared to the same period last year.
Shopping centres and retail parks have also suffered, seeing a fall of 7.3 per cent over the same period.
Springboard said freezing temperatures and gale force winds had dampened any hope for a Christmas retail boost.
The most recent figures will only add to bricks and mortar woes, with rising business rates, wages and Brexit uncertainty hitting profits and closing stores at an unprecedented rate.
The latest figures suggest that some 2,692 stores closed in 2018, with just 1,569 opening over the same period.
Commenting on the report, 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.”
However, Rachel Lund, head of insights and analytics at the British Retail Consortium, suggests that changing consumer habits may mean shoppers are leaving Christmas purchases until the very last minute.
“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,” she said.
“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 report comes after the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £1.5 billion budget to help save the UK’s high streets. The plan includes cutting business rates for firms with a rateable value of less than £50,000 by a third.

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