Cold snap may help internet retailers

<p>Booksellers in parts of the country suffered a dramatic drop in footfall this week as the UK was hit by unexpectedly early and harsh winter weather.</p><p>Disruption is expected to continue into the weekend, especially in Scotland and the north of England. David Thompson of Forum Books in Corbridge, Northumberland, said: &quot;I had to dig my way into the shop and things are looking pretty grim. We make 25% of our annual takings in December, but we&#39;ve only taken half of what we usually would [last] weekend.&quot;</p><p>A Waterstone&#39;s bookseller at Edinburgh&#39;s West End branch said customer numbers were down, despite the store&#39;s central Princes Street location. &quot;Footfall&#39;s dramatically down as transport&#39;s been badly hit, especially from the peripheries,&quot; he said.</p><p>As well as affecting customer numbers, the snow had stopped books reaching stores, said retailers in the north-east. &quot;We&#39;ve had no deliveries since Thursday morning and it&#39;s also affected our mail order service as vans can&#39;t travel south to the sorting office,&quot; said Tim Wallace, owner of Appleby&#39;s Bookshop in Morpeth. &quot;The snow has had a terrible effect on business.&quot;</p><p>Harsh weather had a marked effect on book sales earlier this year when sales were down 6.6% year-on-year for the first nine weeks of 2010 when the country was hit by heavy snow. Bookshops in the north were worst hit, with sales in Scotland down approximately 13%, according to BookScan regional data.</p><p>In London, where conditions are less harsh, shoppers were still expected to stay away. &quot;In weather like this you get a drop in footfall, which is not helpful in the critical trading period. I haven&#39;t seen the figures yet, but previously when we&#39;ve had snow at Christmas, footfall has dropped between 10 and 20%,&quot; said Jace Tyrell, spokesman for the New West End Company.</p><p>Online booksellers could benefit from the snowy conditions although said deliveries to affected areas could be delayed by two days. Andy Mulcahy, spokesman for e-retail group IMRG, said: &quot;Bad weather does generally have a positive effect on e-retail sales, but during the festive period last year a number of online retailers reported problems delivering Christmas gifts because of treacherous conditions. Royal Mail said that around 5% of its deliveries were affected.&quot;<br />Richard Dodd, British Retail Consortium spokesman, said: &quot;What we have that points to the impact of this kind of weather is how poor the January sales figures were this year&mdash;the worst for 15 years. </p><p>&quot;There&#39;s no way of saying yet what the weather will mean this time. It&#39;s not good news that the snow has come this early, and if it went on until Christmas it would be seriously bad news,&quot; he added.<br /> </p>