Christmas retail sales are 'steady' as nervous shoppers leave it late [Western Mail (Wales)]
(Western Mail (Wales) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) RETAILERS say they are expecting both sales and footfall to grow during Christmas amid signs consumer confidence is improving.
The Welsh Retail Consortium (WRC) say they expect sales to build "steadily" in the four shopping days left before Christmas Day.
But despite falling unemployment and a slowly-growing economy, figures suggest any growth could end up being negligible or down in real terms.
The value of retail sales grew by 2.2% for the three-month period between September and November 2012 on a year earlier, and the same period this year saw a marginal increase to 2.4%.
But with retail price index (RPI) inflation at 2.6% in November in real terms the value of sales fell by 0.2% between September and November - showing a high street stumbling along in the run-up to Christmas.
Last week a YouGov survey for the Western Mail found families in Wales feel nervous about the recovery with less confidence to spend than the rest of the UK.
Up to 41% suggested they intend to spend less this year than last. Up to 16% said they would spend more, 39% the same as last year and 4% were undecided.
Mandy Ryan, spokeswoman for the WRC, which represents both high street and online retailers, said firms had seen a "slow but steady" start to the Christmas period.
She said: "People are feeling slightly more positive than they did this time last year, but their incomes are still under significant pressure so lots of people have left it quite late in terms of the their Christmas spending.
"We expect footfall and sales will continue to build and that the final few days before Christmas will be very busy and there'll be a last-minute rush to Christmas spending."
The festive period is the most important part of the year for retailers, with 13% of annual sales going through the tills.
Steven Madeley, director of Cardiff's St David's shopping centre, said more than a million shoppers a week werer piling through their doors during December.
Mr Madeley said the Christmas sales began with Black Friday and Mega Monday.
Black Friday - traditionally a post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy in the US - took root in the UK this year with retailers like Asda, John Lewis and Amazon launching promotional offers. Earlier this month up to Pounds 450m was predicted to be spent online on Cyber Monday, which falls after what is for many the final Friday payday before Christmas.
Mr Madeley said: "Saturday, December 14 was the busiest shopping day of the year so far at St David's as 250,000 shoppers descended on the centre.
"Retailers are tempting shoppers with more sales, and we should see up to Pounds 2.5m being spent in the centre on Saturday December 21.
"Over the course of the weekend we expect around 400,000 shoppers to visit us." But as impressive as the numbers coming out of St David's sound, the centre admits visitors were slightly down last week compared to the same week in 2012.
Swansea's Quadrant Shopping Centre Manager Ian Kirkpatrick said all 37 units there are currently taken, with footfall holding up well.
He said: "There is a real festive buzz about the centre at the moment. We're very pleased with the way things are going and retailers are enjoying a busy run-up to Christmas."
He reported footfall "about the same levels" as last year.
Amazon, the UK's biggest online retailer, sold more than 4.1 million items at a rate of around 47 items a second on Cyber Monday compared to 3.5 million at a rate of around 41 a second last year.
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