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Retailers are also feeling the sting of winter's chill

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2010-12-21

The punishing weather that caused travel chaos across Europe has taken its toll among shopkeepers and retailers as customers were stranded in airports, train stations or at home in what is usually one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year.

The winter chill that hit northern Europe and stranded tens-of-thousands of travellers is also spoiling many retailers’ holiday cheer.

Shop owners, already bracing for sluggish sales in the Europe-wide climate of austerity and frozen consumer confidence, were hit by a low turnout of shoppers on the last weekend before Christmas -- usually one of the most profitable of the year.

In a front-page story Monday, the British daily The Independent highlighted colossal losses, projected at 1 billion pounds per day, for the aviation industry and UK retailers because of the heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures.

“Some of the biggest reported Christmas shopper numbers were down by as much as 10 percent in the UK,” FRANCE 24 business editor Owen Fairclough explained. “That’s a fairly significant drop given the importance of the retail sector to the economy.”

Across the English Channel, northern France and Paris also began the weekend under a cover of snow and sleet.

At the Printemps department stores, whose light and window displays on Avenue Haussmann are one of the staples of the Parisian holiday season, the number of shoppers was markedly low Saturday morning.

“After 2pm, we registered a rise in the number of shoppers, which corresponds to the time when the snow stopped falling,” a Printemps spokesperson said, adding that shopper turnout during the last hours of business was better than at the same time last year.

According to Jean Michel Silbernstein, the deputy chief of France’s National Council of Shopping Centres, the negative financial impact of the winter blast was obvious for his group's members, especially since 30 percent of all the country’s malls are located in Paris and its surrounding region.

“It’s still not a catastrophe,” said Silbernstein. “The bad weather is expected to go away and we still have a week to catch up. Consumers know how much they are going to spend before the holidays, and they always consume that amount.”

But not all keepers were subtracting from their ledgers on Monday.

Cavavin, a small wine and spirits shop in the Parisian suburb of Bois Colombes, saw its best day of sales in its three years of business on Saturday. One of the owners thanked the snow for drawing in locals, its usual clientele, who were stocking up for the upcoming parties.

A popular, independently-owned book store in Paris's 11th arrondisement said it had seen only a slight drop in the number of clients over the weekend, and that turnout was compensated by an influx of local neighbourhood residents who chose to shop closer to home.

The book shop’s real concern was over what it predicted would be a delay in deliveries of books to the store. “If our stocks don’t arrive, for sure we are going to lose out to [Internet book vendor] Amazon,” a store manager worried.

Date created : 2010-12-20


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