Blog: Dean BestWill this Christmas be a retail cracker? No-one seems to know

Dean Best | 9 December 2009

"A slow start". "A solid start". "It's all to play for". "Retailers are hopeful". "A solid Christmas is still on the cards". "A largely buoyant grocery market".

There has been about as much certainty over the prospects for UK retail over this festive period as there is over what I will get the family for Christmas (I literally have no idea).

Let's start with the good news. The folk over at TNS seem full of Christmas cheer after studying their latest grocery retail data.

TNS director Ed Garner claimed UK food retailing was "largely buoyant" in the run-up to Christmas and then proferred: "If the current trend continues through December, the UK’s grocery sector will shortly see an end to recessionary purchasing behaviour."

Over at the British Retail Consortium, the mood seems a bit more subdued. UK retail sales in November missed expectations and food retail sales had been "dampened" by a fall in food inflation.

"Consumer confidence is fragile and has taken a turn for the worse. We're the only major economy still in recession," warned BRC director general Stephen Robertson. "Uncertainty over jobs and future tax increases and government spending cuts is making customers more cautious. Retailers are hopeful of a better Christmas than last year's dire performance, but it's still all to play for."

They seem a wee bit more upbeat at Synovate. Dr Tim Denison admits the UK's great Christmas retail race has got off to a slow start but stands by his prediction of rising footfall on 2008.

"The first week has been a little slower than retailers would have liked, but the 7.5% rise on the previous week is not insignificant and shows that Christmas is on its way," Dr Stenson insisted.

As I type, the business world is settling down to watch Alistair Darling's furrowed brow (and those eyebrows) take us through the Government's latest prognosis for the UK economy.

Will glasses be raised or will we choke on our mince pies?


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