Multiples across the UK are bracing for a “lacklustre” Easter trading period as extreme weather conditions and dwindling footfall has dampened consumer appetite.
Market research company Springboard predicts UK high street footfall could rise 2.4% over the Easter bank holiday weekend, compared with 2017. However, this is very much dependent on milder weather conditions. It warns that if freezing conditions return, Easter weekend footfall could slump by as much as 15%.
Retailers are hedging their bets for the long bank holiday weekend, in line with Met Office predictions, which has forecast “changeable weather” across the UK, including a mixture of “showers, rain and hill snow at times but with most areas also seeing some brighter spells”.
“The run-up [to the Easter weekend] has been very hard,” said the managing director of one womenswear multiple.
“We’re about three or four weeks behind in terms of heat and this has a big impact on sales. I don’t think we’ll recoup that shortfall, unless we have a very strong summer.”
The boss of one footwear chain agreed: “The start to the season has been very quiet. We’re up against tough like-for-likes as the weather was mild last year and we’re falling very short of expectations. Our buyers and sellers are in harmony, but the punters are just not coming. We’re seeing fewer customers through the doors, with fewer people buying, and those that are buying are looking for bargains.”
The managing director of one womenswear chain echoed this, saying March had been very “tough”: “The season hasn’t really kicked in yet. It feels like we’re still in February and we’re a month out. We may see some promotional activity over the Easter period to help kick-start things.”
It is not all doom and gloom, however, and some retailers remain upbeat despite sluggish trade.
He added: “We expect traffic to be a bit quieter over Easter, but I’m optimistic in general. If you put decent product in front of customers offering newness, colours, real choice and value for money, they will respond. If you make the high street exciting, then customers will come.”
The boss of one lifestyle retailer agreed: “We have a good collection and the year has got off to a solid start. Performance over the Easter weekend depends on what happens with the mini Beast from the East, but if the weather stays OK, it should be reasonably strong. We’re trading well online and full-price trading is performing reasonably well given the challenges we had earlier in the month with the snow.”