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Christmas shoppers defy snow and economy

Predictions for Britain's economic recovery may be muted, but the country's shoppers are out in force this Christmas. John Lewis has seen an unprecedented pre-Christmas boom, with department store sales topping £100m for a record three consecutive weeks. The chain logged £112m in sales last week alone, up 15.5 per cent on 2008 and up 11.4 per cent on 2007.

Sales of hats and scarves rocketed as freezing conditions spread, and both luxury foodstuffs and games have also broken records. The group's food outlet, Waitrose, is also on course for its best-ever Christmas. Sales shot up 16.3 per cent last week, with organic turkey sales up 60 per cent and free-range goose up 32 per cent.

UK shopping centres are also booming. Capital Shopping Centres, which owns 14 malls including the Manchester Arndale and the Gateshead MetroCentre, had more than 7 million visitors last week, a 3 per cent rise on the pre-Christmas week in 2008.