By BEN WOODS, Business writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Struggling retailers on Norfolk’s high streets could be pushed to breaking point by the snow, according to a leading business expert.
Professor Paul Dobson, head of the UEA Business School, fears that some retailers feeling the pinch from tough trading conditions maybe forced to shut up shop as they count the cost of low footfall and poor sales caused by the bad weather.
And while he is positive that Norwich’s “resilient” high street can weather the impact of the snow, he fears it may force the retail sector back into recession in the months ahead.
It comes after independent businesses and high street chains across the county have reported their trade being hit by the deluge of snow, which has caused a double-whammy blow of falling sales and low footfall.
Professor Dobson said: “I think the issue with the snow is particularly worrying for retailers.
“Retailers like consistency. Shoppers coming in for the sales are needed, but it is not just about sales, it is also about stock.
“What happens when the snow comes is that people stop shopping and that means businesses have stock that needs shifting.
“In many cases, people do not just delay their purchases because of the snow, but they don’t do it at all.
“Products that people have stocked up on before the snow, they are likely to buy again, but they won’t for discretionary purchases.
“This will have a sizeable affect on retail trade this month and it could tip the retail sector back into recession as the snow affects other cities in the UK.
“What is unique about Norwich is that it has a very large independent sector. And so far the Norwich retail scene has been resilient.
“But for those retailers on the margins, it may push them over the edge.”
Meanwhile, Robin Twigge, regional chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses, believes the snow could not have come at a worse time for businesses who are already struggling through a difficult January period.
He said: “The snow has come at the wrong time in the financial month, and it comes with the double-whammy of traders having the staff but not having the business.”
In Great Yarmouth, Bruce Sturrock, chairman of Palmers department store, has seen his comparable sales drop by 35pc due to people staying indoors, rather than leaving their house and shopping.
He said: “We have been 35pc down on sales compared to exactly the same week last year.
“You never do completely recover and catch back up when you have lost a day’s worth of people.”
Carole Slaughter, marketing manager of Jarrold, Norwich, said the store was forced to close on Sunday because of the dip in footfall caused by the weather.
She said: “We decided on Friday to close on Sunday because of the weather reports.
“Our staff had battled all week to get in and Sunday was our shortest trading day and we thought ‘is it going to be viable for these people to come in when footfall is likely to be bad?’
“Our footfall is significantly down by about 50pc, and it has been much quieter than normal.”
Meanwhile, Paul Roy, owner of Roys of Wroxham, said they had experienced a rise in sales thanks to people buying snow-clearing products and stocking up on food.
He said: “Roys was up 6pc compared to last year and due to the freeze, food was up 20pc.
“The more accessible stores are doing better and it would seem that shoppers are very sensibly avoiding car journeys when they can.”
Elsewhere in Norwich, Davina Tanner, general manager at Chapelfield, said they had not experienced a significant decrease in footfall.
She said: “Chapelfield has been open every day as usual, and although it was less busy in the centre last week, all our shops and restaurants were open.”