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Retailers expect steady Christmas trading

Retailers are convinced that this Christmas will be no worse than last year, according to BRC figures.

Every retailer surveyed in the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC’s) Christmas Trading Snapshot Survey agreed that this year’s Christmas trading period would be at least as good as 2008.

Some 42% were confident that this Christmas will be better than last year, while the remaining 58% said sales would be the same.

However, 47% of retailers also expect an increase in discounting in the run-up to this Christmas compared to the same period last year, with 29% expecting discount levels to remain the same and just 23% expecting them to fall.

More than half of retailers (53%) said sales throughout the rest of December will be boosted by consumers bringing their purchases forward to avoid the VAT increase, which comes into effect in January. However, 47% of retailers thought that the VAT increase would adversely affect sales in January.

Stephen Robertson, British Retail Consortium Director General, said: “I’m reassured that retailers are more confident about their prospects this Christmas but remember the comparison is with dramatic sales falls last year. There are more customers willing and able to spend now but, for many retailers, it’s taking even more discounts to persuade them to buy.

“The impact of the VAT increase is a concern for half the respondents but other clouds are gathering. Customers are cautious. Jobs are a big worry and neither will be helped by the tax-battering promised by the Chancellor.”

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