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Tough first quarter anticipated by retailers

11 January 2012 - 13:56 by Simon Crisp

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Retail groups, both online and on the high street, are expected to struggle in the first three months of 2012, as consumers reduce spending after a fairly buoyant Christmas period, according to Shop Direct chief, Mark Newton-Jones.

Mr Newton-Jones told the Mirror that sales had been boosted by nine per cent in the weeks before the festive season, thanks largely to the portals for safe shopping online operated by Shop Direct, which includes Very.com and Littlewoods.

However, he predicted that a variety of factors will cause yet another retail slump early this year, putting pressure on retailers which some may not be able to handle.

As well as high fuel bills accrued during the cold months due to rising fuel prices, Mr Newton-Jones believes that the austerity measures enacted by the coalition government will be a cause for reduced consumer spending, because household budgets will simply not have as much wiggle room available to them.

In total, the internet sales made by Shop Direct's businesses, which also includes Woolworths.co.uk, were up by a fifth. M-commerce usage was the real star of the show, as the number of people buying products from tablets and smartphones was up by 500 per cent.

Mr Newton-Jones spoke out about the benefits of m-commerce, explaining how just a year ago people were simply browsing from their handsets without buying anything major, while over Christmas 2011, there was a notable surge in those actually parting with cash from their mobile phone.

It seems that UK consumers are very interested in getting the mobile devices necessary to enable them to shop online wherever they go. Shop Direct reported that there was an 87 per cent rise in the number of people buying tablet computers and laptops at the end of last year.