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Retail bosses warn of a 'roller-coaster' Christmas and tough start to 2010

Retail chiefs including Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose, John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield and New Look chief executive Carl McPhail have warned that retailers face further pressures on consumer spending throughout 2010.

New Look chief executive Carl McPhail said: “I’m not convinced we’ll see a recovery in the early part of next year as there will still be pressures, not least from unemployment, and our research shows customers are all concerned about that.”

McPhail’s comments are included in a survey commissioned by PR firm Kreab Gavin Anderson, which found many retailers believe the consumer market will not pick up until 2011.

Just over a third of those questioned – 34% - are not anticipating strong growth until 2011 or even later.

Just 13% expected the consumer market to pick up significantly this year. And nearly all – 94% - said they expected a slow recovery as tax rises squeeze shoppers’ disposable income.

Despite fears, two-thirds said they were more positive than seven months ago as fears of economic Armageddon had not emerged.

Retail bosses also warned that Christmas would be flat this year.

Rose said: “It will be a roller-coaster. Last Christmas was exceptional in terms of the global economic environment. This year there will be less background noise but a bit more competition.”

Andrew Higginson, chief executive of Tesco’s Retailing Services division, said the market will be “flat at best” for UK retailers over Christmas.

He added: “I think the market will be flat at best at Christmas and part of that will be deflation. Although currency falls suggest we should see a bit of inflation I don’t think the competitive market will allow it.”

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