Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

'Fewer shoppers' braving the snow

Elderly woman makes her way home from shops
Not everyone is braving the weather to make it out to the shops

The heavy snow and ice is having a big impact on the number of people going shopping, according to a research company.

Overall shopper numbers in non-food stores in the UK on Sunday, 10 January were down 14% from the equivalent Sunday last year, Synovate said.

Since the most recent snowfalls began on 6 January, retail traffic has been running about 21% lower than last year.

The worst affected regions are southern England and Wales.

Footfall in non-food stores on Sunday was down 26% in southern and south-east England, down 24% in south-west England, and 21% lower in Wales.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the heavy snow was only a temporary problem.

"This bad weather isn't going to be make or break for the retail sector," said Richard Dodd from the BRC.

"Clearly the footfall figures are not good news but while people are going shopping less often, they're spending more on essentials on each visit.

"People might not have gone out to buy the new furniture or TV that they wanted, but are likely to go and buy that in the next few weeks anyway."

There are indications that online retailers have not benefited from people deciding to stay at home.

IMRG, which represents online retailers, said it had not seen a significant uplift in traffic to its members' websites during the current cold spell.

Its director of operations David Smith told the BBC News website he thought this was because consumers were concerned about the weather disrupting deliveries.

Supply concerns

Both the BRC and the government have denied reports that customers face possible food shortages and higher prices in the shops.

Some small businesses have warned of low supplies of vegetables.

There are no reports of major problems with food supplies reaching retailers

Stephen Alambritis from the Federation of Small Businesses said: "Our members have had a run on vegetables and food, which they were pleased about because it brought them in some money - but the replacements have been thin on the ground.

"There is concern that farmers have not been able to bring the harvest in for such items as potatoes, sprouts and cabbages which reduces the amount available to stores - and pushes up prices."

But the BRC's Richard Dodd said: "There is no evidence at all that retailers are having difficulties getting enough supplies not to meet normal levels of customer demand, or that this is going to last long enough to make any difference to shop prices of produce."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "There are no reports of major problems with food supplies reaching retailers.

"Because the UK has a diverse supply of food from domestic and international suppliers we're not reliant on just one source of food, which helps maintain stability of supply as well as helping to keep prices stable."

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Telegraph Fresh snow and grit rationing bring more travel disruption - 1 hr ago
The Independent Groundhog Day as the snow returns - 1 hr ago
Times Online Heavy snowfalls mark the 'coldest day' - 1 hr ago
Reuters UK Councils told to halve gritting to save salt stocks - 13 hrs ago
Financial TimesUse of salt on roads restricted further - 17 hrs ago
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