Britain’s cold snap has frozen high street sales growth as shoppers opt to stay at home rather than brave the snow.
The Christmas shopping rush, usually seen during the final days of November, failed to materialise this year as the heavy snow put people off travelling.
Non-fashion sales were the hardest hit, with gifts the worst performing category during November, while health and beauty purchases were also below par, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.
The arrival of the cold weather led to the usual seasonal spike in purchases of winter clothes, with fashion sales rising by 2.8 per cent during November, although the growth was down on the figure seen for the same month of 2009.
The weather also hit online sales, as people worried that their order risked getting lost during the snow chaos, or being caught up in a backlog of deliveries.
Non-store sales were still 27.6 per cent ahead of November 2009’s level, but the growth was well down on the 39.2% seen a year ago, as last month failed to benefit from the traditional Christmas shopping boost that comes during the final days of November.
The only sector that exceeded expectations was the homeware sector, which saw year-on-year growth of 3.6%, as spending levels were boosted by people ordering big ticket items in a bid to beat January’s VAT rise.
But retailers are hoping sales will bounce back during early December as people rush to the shops once the snow has been cleared.
Don Williams, BDO head of retail, said: “The weather has put people off shopping, but it’s come so early consumers still have time to do their Christmas shopping.
“This weekend would normally be the big weekend for festive purchases, but most people will wait until the snow has cleared before returning to the high street.
“Retailers will be nervous, but the fact we’ve had this snowfall at the end of November rather than mid-December means they won’t have to panic discount.”
Meanwhile, Waitrose said it had seen strong trading despite the snow, with sales for the week ending December 4 up 5 per cent on last year and 27 per cent higher than in 2008 at £106 million.
The group said it was particularly busy on Monday as shoppers stocked up ahead of the forecast bad weather.
Hot drinks were among the best sellers during the week, with sales of cocoa up 48 per cent, while purchases of instant hot chocolate soared by 78 per cent and herbal teas were up 37 per cent.
There was also a strong emphasis on comfort food, with pie sales rising by 53 per cent and canned soup up 56 per cent, while store cupboard staples, including UHT milk and powdered milk, also rose by more than 50 per cent. Frozen food was also popular.
Unsurprisingly, sales of de-icer soared by 608 per cent on a year ago, while screenwash was up by 435 per cent. There was also strong sales growth for hand cream and lip salve.