Weather experts predict a return of icy conditions this week following a brief thaw, which could force consumers to postpone festive purchases and retailers could struggle to make up any lost sales.
“If there was more bad weather immediately before Christmas then that could well be more of a problem. It may not be a case of postponing the expenditure, they just may never spend the money at all,” Sam Hart, an analyst at Charles Stanley, said.
The unusually cold weather, which brought snow and ice to many parts of the country and disrupted travel in the coldest November since 1993, has already hit business at retailers such as HMV and JJB Sports. About a third of all festive shopping in Britain is done in the two weeks before Christmas, according to research by GfK NOP.
The market research group said the return of cold weather could plunge retailers into the red.
“I think clearly this is going to impact quite severely if this [cold] weather persists,” said Richard Hyman, strategic retail adviser at Deloitte.