| Summer casts cloud over high streets|
Summer casts cloud over high streets
BY TIM REID
THE clouds of summer gloom over Britain are darkest
over the high street, it emerged yesterday. Shopkeepers
are counting the cost of lost sales caused by a distinct
absence of sunshine.
Millions of items of hot-weather clothing, including cotton
dresses, short-sleeved shirts, sandals, sunglasses and
shorts remain unsold as the fashion chains find - like
everyone else - that it was an error to expect warm
weather in July.
Sales of charcoal, wine and meat, have also slumped -
reflecting the lack of barbecuing weather - along with
outdoor paint, tanning lotions and garden furniture. The
wet spell has been a boon only for cold cures and foreign
At the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Ann Grain said:
"The rain dampens things. If it's sunny we feel more like
going out and shopping. If it's dull and raining we feel less
eager to leave home." Amanda Aldridge, British
head of retail for the accountants KPMG, which collated
the figures, said: "The impact of the weather can
particularly be seen in women's clothing. The bad weather
means people are wearing what they have in their
wardrobes. The summer sales have come at the wrong
time. If you don't get the right weather at the right time,
figures are bad."
A survey by the consortium showed a subdued market
starting in June, with a terrible effect on the summer sales.
According to the BRC, nearly all the high street
department stores, including Marks & Spencer, John
Lewis, Next and Monsoon, started their summer sales at
least a week early and have increased discounts on the
summer fashion ranges in an attempt to offset the poor
sales. None of the stores would release any details of
sales figures or trends last night. All said they were "stock
The Federation of Tourist Operators reported a boom in
package holidays. Thomas Cook has sold 165,000 in the
past three weeks, 20 per cent more than usual.
"We are approaching the peak booking levels usually seen
in January," said the federation's Graham Lancaster.
Weather forecasters were trying to answer the question
everyone was asking: Whatever happened to summer? It
turns out that our dark clouds do have a silver lining, but it
is stuck hundreds of miles away.
A low weather system has become trapped over Britain
because we are wedged between two high-pressure
systems, one in the mid- Atlantic and one over the
Balkans which is producing the prolonged heat wave there.
That means flooding in Kent and Essex, but raging fires
and temperatures of up to 50C (122F) in Greece and
Bulgaria. Unusually, the weather systems are almost
identical in size, so the jet stream in the upper atmosphere
has become a symmetrical series of waves, locking in the
bad weather. According to the Meteorological Office, it
will take a fortnight to break the wave pattern and shift
good weather our way.
In the first ten days of July, Britain averaged three hours of
sun a day compared with the usual six - and has already
had half the average monthly rainful.