The post-mortem on the Christmas period is coming in and it does not make pretty reading. No-one was expecting rosy trading results, but a rise of 0.3% on a like-for-like basis was worse than most analysts predicted. When new stores are taken into account, the growth is 2.3% - still below an average prediction of 2.9%.
Individual stories vary (and the Guardian has a cute way of monitoring incoming reports here) but the one that has captured today's headlines is Marks & Spencer's announcement that sales fell by 2.2% over the third quarter's trading which, at time of writing, has wiped 20% off their share price to leave them at 398p - below the 400p Philip Green was looking to pay in 2004.
Retailers are now looking to the Bank of England to cut interest rates at its meeting this week to stimulate spending. The Bank will probably not do more than a quarter-point cut owing to continuing inflation risks which may lower borrowing costs, but will probably not be enough to shake the public mood that battening down the hatches is the best thing to do at the moment. Retailers may well take the same approach with their expansion plans - particularly in light of the fact that the rise in food prices (set to continue) is inflating the figures of the market as a whole. There is 14 million sq ft of retail scheme floorspace set to come online this year - how much of it will be occupied is another question