Last-minute shoppers spending £1 a minute

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The Independent Online

Shoppers splashed out an estimated £1 million a minute today in a frenzy of Christmas Eve panic-buying.

Major retailers reported brisk business both on high streets and online as people made a flurry of last-minute purchases.

Supermarkets were also packed with people stocking up on festive food.

B&Q, the home improvement and garden centre retailer, started an online and in-store sale from today.

Tesco began an online sale on Tuesday, with offers on furniture, homeware and sports products, followed by electrical items from 8pm today.

Department store Debenhams launched an online sale at 6am today, with doors open on Boxing Day at 7am for the in-store sales.

It was estimated that more than 13 million people would make a late dash to the shops today.

Research from Sainsbury's Credit Cards suggested 19% of adults had intended to do some of their Christmas shopping today, spending around £1.37 billion.

This is equivalent to £57 million an hour or £951,000 per minute.

The giant Meadowhall shopping centre, near Sheffield, reported large numbers of shoppers today, despite overnight snow in the region.

Centre director Darren Pearce said the weather had had little effect on the numbers coming through the doors and the vast car park was 50% full within an hour of the centre opening this morning.

He said visitor numbers for yesterday and Tuesday were 38% up on 2008.

"It's been a great Christmas for us," he said.

Andrew Parkinson, general manager of Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, said 70% of its 120,000 customers were expected to be male.

The Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol had half a million visitors last week.

Director Richard Belt said: "The number of people visiting us in the past three and a half weeks has been absolutely superb."

Bosses at St David's retail centre in Cardiff said the number of shoppers heading for the complex today already exceeded all expectations.

"We estimate that we've had more than a million shoppers a week through the doors in December and our stores are already reporting some of their strongest pre-Christmas sales," said shopping centre director Steven Madeley.

Tim Bettley, managing director of fashion retailer Peacocks, said: "We've seen a huge last-minute rush and pre-Christmas trade has been off the clock. The weather has helped, with people going local instead of travelling into town."

Wendy Miranda, of kitchenware store Lakeland, was also expecting many of today's customers to be men.

"We are always here to point them in the right direction - as much as I love my Oven Mate, I certainly wouldn't want to find it in my stocking," she said.

Waitrose said sales for yesterday were £38.7 million - £4.4 million up on the equivalent day last year. A normal Wednesday would take £12 million.

Shoppers bought 75,000 stuffing balls, 7.5 tonnes of dry aged sirloin, 15 tonnes of rib of beef, about 1.8 million chipolatas and 33,000 legs of lamb, the store said.

Enough Baileys to fill 1,237,500 glasses, 9,600 slices of chocolate and salted caramel bombe, the equivalent of 55,200 scoops of mince pie ice cream, 260,000 cranberries and 624,000 chestnuts were also snapped up, along with 76,060lb (34,500kg) of turkey and enough Stilton to put on three million crackers.

Around 130,000 last minute shoppers were estimated to have thronged the marble-clad halls of The Trafford Centre in Manchester today.

A spokesman for the shopping complex said: "It's stayed steadily busy right up to the wire."

He said more than 140,000 people are expected to flock to the centre on Boxing Day, with stores opening their doors to bargain hunters at 7am.

More than one million people visited the centre in the past seven days, a drop of 4% compared to the same period last year.

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