Forecasts flag warmer winter

Christmas sales look likely to escape the impact of snow as higher temperatures are predicted.

Severe weather last winter left retailers with unsold stock - image: HW
Severe weather last winter left retailers with unsold stock - image: HW

Warmer temperatures forecast for this Christmas could mean UK retailers will escape a repeat of lost sales caused by last year's heavy snow.

But forecasters said weather will be changeable, with high winds, rain and snow all possible, particularly in the north in the period from 19 December to 2 January.

The Met Office warned: "It is likely there will be colder spells across northern parts of the UK, with snow to lower levels.

Southern parts are likely to see more settled conditions and above-average temperatures. However, cold nights are expected across the UK, with frost and fog." also predicted a warmer winter in its long-range forecast, with December temperatures around normal at 5.6 degsC, compared to 4.6 degsC below normal last year.

"This winter is not going to be nearly as cold or snowy as last," said senior meteorologist Alan Reppert. Higher elevations in England and Scotland could see above-normal snowfall, he added, but none is expected in southern parts of Wales and England.

Netweather agreed that high pressure to the north opened the door to the risk of colder spells.

Nevertheless, some other services were still predicting that heavy snow is possible. WeatherAction astrophysicist Piers Corbyn said a cold blast will make Britain and western Europe exceptionally cold in December.

Exacta Weather UK longrange forecaster James Madden added: "I have very high confidence that we will shortly enter a cooling trend that will bring frequent cold and widespread heavy snowfall across the UK."

In December 2010, many garden retailers lost most of their sales for the last 10 days before Christmas because of snow, leaving them with unsold Christmas trees.

Meanwhile, plant sales are up 17 per cent this November (see p12) with average temperatures of 8.7 degsC, the second highest in a century. September to November's average of 11.2 degsC was the second warmest on record.

Rainfall was mixed, with 464mm in Northern Ireland and 81mm in East Anglia.

Sales prospects

Neil Gow, owner, Burcot Garden Centre

"Christmas tree sales are a week earlier and 25 per cent up on last year. We've budgeted to sell more because we lost the last 10 days to snow. We had a big sale in January that got rid of stocks but wasn't great for the finances. This year, people are buying earlier because life is so gloomy."

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