Retailers positive for Christmas

However, fears over the impact of interest rate rises sour mood at Barclays' retail and wholesale conference
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Despite worries over an impending credit crunch, it appears that retailers are relatively unconcerned over it having an impact on Christmas sales according to a survey of 140 industry leaders at the seventh Barclays National Retail and Wholesale Conference.

Only ten per cent of respondents believed Christmas spending would be down this year, with the rest saying they believe it will be in line with last year's figures, or even up on them.

However, despite the overall positive outlook for this Christmas, the majority voicing concerns that during 2008, spending would be impacted. 40 per cent said that they believed interest rate rises had already been affected, while a further 50 per cent said that they believed that their customers would feel their effects going into 2008.

The Internet is one area though that very few respondents had concerns about. Almost a fifth predicted that sales would increase by over 20 per cent this Christmas while 36 per cent said that sales had increased generally over 15 per cent during the past year.

"A number of factors have made 2007 a challenging year for retailers, not least rising interest rates and an increase in raw material costs, mitigated in part by a weak dollar," said Barclays' national director for the retail and wholesale sectors, Paul Clarke. "Although the survey suggests that there are tough times ahead, it is encouraging that the sector seems upbeat about the prospects for Christmas."

"The last few years have seen shoppers increasingly putting off their gift buying until the final two weeks before Christmas. Last year retailers held their nerve and did not reduce prices. It will be fascinating to see whether retailers do so again this year, or whether their concerns about the effect of recent rises in interest rates will mean that sales will start early."

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