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Shoppers take a shine to spring sun

Just three weeks ago I was stood shivering in my winter coat outside a footwear store, while the owner told me that snow in March was actually very helpful because it had helped him shift winter's left-over boots. I admired his optimism, but not as much as I was admiring the bejewelled sandals in the window.

Now, with much of the country bathed in sunshine and enjoying temperatures about 6 degsC above average for this time of year, I can only presume that he and many other footwear retailers are doing a fine trade in said sandals.

The unseasonably warm weather encouraged shoppers to hit the shops in their droves this Easter weekend. Apparently some one million customers trod the well-worn London Oxford Street-Bond Street-Regent Street drag alone (up 10% on last Easter) - and judging by the number of brown and blue carrier bags being toted, most of them took in the new Primark megastore at Marble Arch on the way.

It's very pleasing to see that end of Oxford Street looking smarter - even if the increased footfall does impede my usually swift sprint from Marble Arch tube station to Selfridges - although there are still some grim-looking temporary stores and souvenir shops in evidence. I suppose if nothing else they make Primark's store front look even more striking than it already is.

But it wasn't just the capital that did well from the warm weather. Drapers canvassed the opinions of multiples across the country and the response was almost universally positive. The combination of warm weather and Easter falling closer to pay day seems to have been a fortuitous one, and so excited were some Brits about the onset of sun that they were buying swimwear.

If the weather holds, those retailers that went into mid-season Sale (and there were many in evidence on the high street) may wish they'd held their nerve for a little while longer. To me, it seemed that no sooner had some multiples finally sold the dregs of their discounted winter stock than they were cutting the price of the first-phase spring collections.

Independent retailers have been bemoaning this practice in recent weeks because they simply can't go on Sale the minute they get nervous about the weather. And the frustration they feel at finding branded products, of which they've just taken delivery, on Sale in the brand's own store is understandable.

The weather is something you can never take for granted and even the experts aren't prepared to make any firm predictions, so basing your business decisions on it is mighty risky. If you want some reassurance, though, the BBC's monthly forecast says things will stay settled for the next two weeks, after which we can expect some showers and colder temperatures.

However, a caveat at the end of the report says predicting the weather "beyond about a week ahead stretches even the most experienced weather forecaster". In other words, "we could be completely wrong".

Still, if the showers do come, it could be a chance for my footwear optimist to make some early sales on the wellies he bought for the festival season. Every cloud ...

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