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Snow, Cold Stifle U.K. Holiday Sales

Retailers hope to make up the declines this week.

Shoppers battle the elements on Saturday on London’s Oxford Street.

Record cold temperatures and snow in parts of the U.K. stopped many British consumers in their tracks in the vital shopping days before Christmas.

Synovate, the market research company, said Monday that retail traffic in the U.K. on Saturday was down 24.3 percent compared with the same day last year, and footfall for the entire weekend dropped 19.6 percent versus the year-ago period. London was particularly affected on Saturday, with traffic declining 28.6 percent compared with last year.

Snow and cold have also hit other countries in Europe, including France, Germany and Belgium.

A major mall in north London, Brent Cross, which houses stores such as Banana Republic, Topshop and H&M, closed Saturday afternoon because of heavy snowfall. The mall’s owners feared that customers and staff would be stuck.

“We’re hoping that that was a once-in-a-generation snowstorm for north London, and that we’ve seen the worst of it,” said Norman Black, a spokesman for Brent Cross. “[On Sunday] there was a surge in demand. We expect most of our retailers to have made up their losses by the middle of this week.”

Sarah Cordey, of the British Retail Consortium, said despite the disruption to retail, “customers have a certain amount of money to spend and gifts they want to buy….We’re hoping for December as a whole to even out to [the figures] we would expect for the month.”

Meanwhile, John Lewis, the British department store chain, had a rosier take on the cold weather. In the week ending Saturday, the store reported sales of 120.3 million pounds, or $186.9 million at current exchange, marking only the second time in its history the retailer achieved weekly sales of more than 120 million pounds, or $186 million. The sales represented a rise of 7 percent compared with the same week last year.

John Lewis said sales had been buoyed by home furnishings and accessories, gifts such as beauty and jewelry items and sales of outerwear to combat the cold weather, including hats, scarves and gloves.