Christmas cheer

Christmas retail sales forecasts should often be taken with a pinch of salt, but the predictions for the 2010 holiday season are positive across the board.


Christmas retail sales forecasts should often be taken with a pinch of salt, but the predictions for the 2010 holiday season are positive across the board.

Christmas retail sales forecasts should often be taken with a pinch of salt, but the predictions for the 2010 holiday season are positive across the board.

The sentiment is clear across a variety of studies – this could be the best Christmas for sales in years and is a welcome antidote to the renewed economic gloom surrounding public sector cuts.

Verdict Research predicts shoppers will spend £85.2 billion this Christmas, representing an increase of 1.9 per cent, or an extra £1.6 billion in consumer spending on last year.

Internet spend is set to go up too. According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, total online spend for the fourth quarter of 2010 will reach an estimated £17.4 billion, up from £15 billion in Q4 2009.

PEER 1 Hosting, a business hosting provider, predicts the biggest ever peak in web-based shopping this Christmas with 88 per cent of respondents saying they will spend more online this year than they ever have before.

The statistics may point towards a merry Christmas for retailers, but what’s the mood among business owners? For once, the ones I’ve spoken to are as bullish as the forecasts. Ruel Taylor, director of mobile phone accessory retailer Mobile Fun, expects to turn over £1 million this December compared with £900,000 last year. ‘We had a very strong Christmas performance in 2009 during a very uncertain economic period,’ says Taylor. ‘The recession didn’t really impact the spend of our customers then and we expect even better results this time.’

Organic product retailer So Organic is another with bullish forecasts, predicting a sales rise of 12 per cent to £500,000 for November and December. COO Stuart Burlton says: ‘Despite the market being very price-orientated this year, we expect to sell in volume and we see good sales both in our retail store and online.’

The lead-up to Christmas is a decent indicator of how sales will fare in the holiday season itself. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has reported steady retail growth over the past three months. According to its Distributive Trades Survey of 20,000 retail outlets, a balance of +36 per cent saw a rising volume of sales during October. Lai Wah Co, the CBI’s head of economic analysis, says: ‘Retailers expect sales growth to continue next month, in the run-up to Christmas. We should also see more of a boost to sales as shoppers look to beat the new year VAT rise.’

All that’s left now for retailers is to hope that, after the talking up of high street and online sales, there is no damp squib when it comes to the crucial trading period. Whereas last year expectations were set low enough to avoid disappointment, this time there seems to be an awful lot more on the line.

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