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Non-food shopping trips to fall in December

Non-food shopping trips are expected to be down by 7.3% in December compared with last year, according to market research firm Synovate Retail Performance (formerly SPSL).

Synovate’s Dr Tim Denison said: "Despite yesterday’s VAT reduction, which incidentally reduces the final retail price of VAT-able goods by only 2.1%, the current evidence is that the number of non-food shopping trips being made by households in the UK is still falling and likely to fall further."

He added: "A general lack of confidence and heightened concerns over job security seem to be uppermost in influencing attitudes and behaviour, taking precedence in people’s minds over falls in energy and fuel prices, interest rates and VAT. No doubt people are encouraged by the changes underway that help to reduce the cost of living, but they will not have come soon enough to disperse the cloud of nervousness hanging over Christmas shopping."

But Denison said that retailers' tactics, including last week's promotional activities by the likes of Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, have paid off, with retail footfall on the high street up by as much as 4%.

He said: "Where there are compelling offers, there is still latent demand but retailers cannot afford to run such deep-cut events every day in the run-up to Christmas, so inevitably the effect of the stimuli will, unless very creatively renewed, be sporadic and short lived."

He added: "I know that every year retailers and some industry commentators are criticised for doom-mongering and fearing the worst. This year, however, there is just cause for such concern. The spectre of weak demand is overshadowing every retailer on the high street. I believe it will only be the exceptional ones that emerge into a potentially bleaker New Year unscathed. I truly hope we are wrong but over 13 years’ worth of robust and accurate data and well-proven analysis says otherwise."

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