Cold sends shivers down high streets
THE FEROCIOUS weather caused a nine per cent fall in the number of shoppers on Britain’s high streets yesterday.
This was a major blow for struggling retailers on what is usually the peak trading weekend before Christmas.
Many had been hoping for a festive boost after a grim year that has seen a string of big names like House of Fraser, Debenhams and John Lewis struggle.
But the freezing rain and high winds of Storm Deirdre were blamed for shoppers staying away despite discounts of up to 30 per cent being offered by some retailers.
Retail intelligence experts Springboard said UK high street footfall yesterday was down by more than nine per cent compared to the same period last year.
Overall footfall for shopping centres and retail parks, combined with high streets, was down 7.3 per cent up to 3pm.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing and insights director, said: “It’s unfortunate that the weather has come in.
“I think all retailers are finding it really tough, even the ones that are most resilient and this is not what they need.”
She added that many shoppers may not venture out next weekend as it is so close to Christmas Day, saying they could have already travelled to wherever they are spending the holidays.
Major tourist attraction The Eden Project in Cornwall was also a victim of Storm Deirdre yesterday, having to close its doors after being flooded.
It offered refunds or exchanges to anyone who had booked tickets for the site in advance.
The Met Office took the unusual step of issuing “danger to life” warnings as officials forecast freezing rain to continue falling on large parts of the UK this morning. It added this rare freezing
HIT: Christmas shoppers brave icy weather in Oxford Street, London, yesterday
weather phenomenon poses a risk of death and injury with roads, pavements and cycle paths becoming instantly impassable because of the sudden formation of black ice.
The national weather service yesterday issued six weather warnings covering almost the entire UK, apart from London and the South-east, which were still expected to see heavy rain.
Four yellow warnings were issued, which forecast a “500 mile curtain of snow” across the central belt of the UK.
The Met Office also warned of a “prolonged” period of heavy snow in Scotland and northern England, where up to 15 inches was expected on the highest peaks. Around seven inches of snow was forecast in flatter areas, with 1,500 gritters being deployed. Forecaster Simon Partridge said: “If you’re not under a snow and ice warning, you’re probably under a wind and rain warning. The good thing is that Deirdre is expected to clear out the cold air and become much milder across the weekend.”
The RAC was expecting breakdowns to soar to above 7,000 a day, while Network Rail officials confirmed there were plans in place to use 34 de-icing trains in order to minimise disruption.
The cold snap will ease off by Monday although bookies have slashed the odds of a White Christmas to 2/7.
ARCTIC: A driver navigates difficult conditions as snow and freezing rain hit in Harwood in Teesdale, Co Durham, yesterday