Dec 19, 2010
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German retailers shrug off snow chaos

Dec 19, 2010

FRANKFURT | Fri Dec 17, 2010 - An unexpectedly snowy start to winter has curbed Christmas spending in Germany a little, but not enough to worry retailers as much as their peers in the UK and France, a retail industry group said on Friday.

Snowfall in Germany over the weekend

"Christmas sales in the last week have been down a little on the first two weeks of the season, but still better than in 2009," a spokesman for Germany's HDE retail association said.

HDE maintained its forecasts for Christmas sales to rise 2.5 percent from 2009, with online sales to jump 8 percent.

Freezing temperatures, ice and snow brought transport networks to a halt across Europe earlier this month and more snow is forecast as retailers enter the busiest shopping week of the year.

UK retailers HMV Group (HMV.L), Kesa Electricals (KESA.L), Carpetright (CATVU.L) and Travis Perkins (TPK.L) have already voiced concerns about a prolonged cold snap and France's Auchan said on Wednesday it feared a white Christmas would hit sales.

By contrast German fragrance to fashion retailer Douglas (DOHG.DE) said the weather had less of an impact this year than last.

"We are very pleased with Christmas sales in Germany so far," Chief Executive Henning Kreke said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters. He added that jewellery and perfume were performing especially well.

German retailer Metro (MEOG.DE) also downplayed the effects of the weather. "We are coping with the snow and ice. Even if there are some delays, customers in stores rarely notice," it said in e-mailed comments.

The HDE spokesman added the weather was good news for sellers of winter clothing and sledges -- a trend also picked up in Britain by Sports Direct Plc (SPD.L), which said winter wear was flying off its shelves.

"It can be a lot of fun to go shopping in a winter wonderland, provided that the streets are cleared," the HDE spokesman added.

The Germany economy is rebounding strongly and business sentiment rose to its strongest level since 1991 in December, according to think tank Ifo. (Editing by David Holmes)

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